IBL Ltd v Coussens [1991] 2 All ER 133

Key Point

  • In conversion, there is no fixed rule for the date of assessment for the value of the converted goods, the damages should simply reflect the loss actually suffered


  • Mr Coussens (D) sold his company, IBL (C) but kept two cars (Aston Martin and Rolls Royce) belonging to the company
  • In February 1988, C demanded that D return the cars but D refused
  • C later sued conversion and was awarded damages equal to the value of the cars as a February 1988
  • C appealed since the value of the cars have substantially increased, arguing that the value of cars should be calculated at the date of judgment


  • Should damages for conversion calculated based on the value of goods as at the date of conversion, date of judgment or some other date?

Held (Court of Appeal)

  • Appeal allowed, damages shall be reassessed by the Master, in light of what C would have done with the cars had they not been converted, including whether they would have disposed of them or kept them

Neill LJ

  • ‘[I]t is not possible, or indeed appropriate, to attempt to lay down any rule which is intended to be of universal application as to the date by reference to which the value of goods is to be assessed. The method of valuation and the date of valuation will depend on the circumstances.’


  • Should the judge determine that C would have disposed the cars had they been returned when demanded, then the valuation would be at February 1988 if however, the judge determines that C would have retained the cars, then the valuation will be at a later date
  • The court distinguished BBMB Finance (Hong Kong) Ltd v Eda Holdings Ltd [1990] 1 WLR 409 on the ground that Lord Templeman was only laying down a ‘general rule’ that is not to be applied in all circumstances