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This case matters to my husband and me, because we pay much money yearly to service our cars at auto shops!! 1. We have never heard of "monthly credit account" at vehicle workshops? How does this work?

  1. I don't understand footnote 49 quoted below. Why does Wilson's having a monthly credit account prevent the garage from having a lien on Wilson's car?

Wilson v Lombank Ltd [1963] 1 WLR 1294.

FACTS: Wilson bought a car from a person who turned out to be a rogue, and took it to a garage for repairs. After the repairs were completed, the car was left on the forecourt of the garage, but before Wilson could collect it, the garage permitted Lombank Ltd to remove the car. The car had been stolen and Lombank honestly believed that it owned the car. Subsequently, Lombank discovered that it did not own the car and so it delivered it to the true owner. Wilson sued Lombank for trespass to goods. Trespass to goods requires the claimant to have had possession of the goods and that the defendant interfered with that possession, so the issue was: did Wilson have possession of the car?

HELD: When Wilson left the car with the garage, he still retained possession of the car, since the garage was holding it to his order at all times.49 Consequently, Lombank was liable in trespass to Wilson for the full value of the car, together with the cost of the repairs.

COMMENT: This case illustrates two important points. First, Wilson was able to protect his right to possession against Lombank, even though there was someone who had a better title to the car than him. This reminds us that property rights are simply relative and a title which is less than absolute is still protected by the law. Second, the law may treat a person as being in possession even where the goods are physically controlled by someone else. In this case, Wilson had what is called ‘constructive possession’, which is discussed later in this chapter.

49 Note that the garage did not have a lien on the car, since Wilson had a monthly credit account with it.

Lee Roach, Commercial Law 2019 3e, p 32.

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    The title is confusingly worded.
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 10, 2021 at 1:17
  • Who wrote footnote 49? The judge, or Lee Roach? Lee might be wrong. Dec 10, 2021 at 2:21
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica Lee Roach. I checked this myself online.
    – user41776
    Dec 11, 2021 at 21:36
  • @ohwilleke looks clear to me? what's confusing?
    – user41776
    Dec 11, 2021 at 21:36
  • Yeah I see that a lot, where somebody's writing a report about something completely different, and tosses in a little tangential like that. The tangential's are often poorly researched and not accurate. I consider such things not a reliable source. I bet if Lee Roach wrote a paper on mechanic's liens, it would be better researched and correct. Dec 11, 2021 at 22:08

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lien

A lien is a form of security interest granted over an item of property to secure the payment of a debt or performance of some other obligation.

So the garage might have held a lien on Wilson's car as a way to secure a debt that he owed them, such as payment owed for repairs. If so, it would have prevented Wilson from selling the car until the debt was paid. It would also have made it a little less clear who was truly in possession of the car if the garage had a security interest in the car.

However, in this particular case, Wilson had a monthly credit account with the garage. I would assume that means he had come to some arrangement with the garage where they would do the work without demanding payment on the spot, and that he would pay what he owed at the end of the month, or something like that; perhaps on terms like net 30 days. They evidently trusted him enough to grant him unsecured credit, instead of demanding a lien on the car as security. So the issue of a lien did not come up in determining possession.

This sort of arrangement would have been a lot more common in 1963, before credit cards were common, so I'm not surprised that your garage today doesn't offer it. Nowadays the garage is more likely to demand payment as soon as the work is done, but you can get much the same effect by paying them with a credit card; then you will have about a month before you have to pay your credit card bill (or begin paying interest on it).

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    The footnote speaks as if it's universally true that granting of a credit line by law, wipes out a mechanic's right to a lien. I don't think that's true. Further I don't think giving the car back to the customer wipes out a mechanic's right to attach a lien. The mechanic has the license plate and VIN, after all. Dec 10, 2021 at 2:23
  • A garageman's lien in personality is usually possessory only (i.e. it is basically a right to hold onto the collateral that was worked upon until payment is received in full). Normally, surrendering possession would cause the lien on the car to lapse.
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 10, 2021 at 2:30
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    Monthly credit accounts are still extremely common in B2B relationships. Indeed, my company has one with our fuel merchant and our mechanic.
    – Dale M
    Dec 10, 2021 at 5:00
  • Yeah, extremely common. Bigger enterprises don't pay cash. Trust me, when I've tried to work with a vendor I liked where they don't do credit accounts, running around trying to get a paper check out of accounting was a nightmare - they're just not setup to do it! I note approved vendors have fairly high (advertised) prices. I assume the company negotiated a discount. Dec 11, 2021 at 22:24

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