Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly

Unjust enrichment in Ireland

David Capper *


Northern Ireland

91. Axa Insurance DAC v Bells of Crossgar Accident Repair Centre Ltd [2021] NICh 7 (NI HC, ChD, Humphreys J)

Contractual or particular lien?—interim injunction

The insured crashed his Jaguar sports car on 7 January 2021. The vehicle was recovered by MAR, who put the insured in contact with the defendants, and the vehicle was taken to the defendants’ premises. The defendants had recently been on the claimant insurer’s list of approved repairers but this was no longer the case. The insured’s motor insurance policy contained a term that, if the vehicle was repaired by a non-approved repairer, the insurer would pay only what would have been the cost charged by an approved repairer. The defendants prepared a repair estimate, which the claimant did not approve, and the insured was told that he would be liable for the shortfall. Steps were taken to remove the vehicle to another auto repairer approved by the claimant. The defendants claimed they had a lien on the vehicle for their charges and would not permit the vehicle to be taken away until these were defrayed. The insured accepted a cash settlement from the claimant, which enabled him to clear the outstanding finance on the vehicle, thus passing title to the claimant. The claimant paid part of the defendants’ charges but disputed a balance of £510.
The claimant applied for an interim order for the delivery up of the vehicle under the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977, s.4(2). It was clear that, in accordance with the interim injunction principles of American Cyanamid Co v Ethicon Ltd [1975] AC 396, the claimant could establish a serious question to be tried as to its entitlement to an order under s.4(2). The issue before the court was whether the defendants had an arguable defence that they were entitled to the asserted lien. If they did not, no further American Cyanamid questions relating to the adequacy of damages and the balance of convenience would arise.
Held: The defendants had no arguable defence that they were entitled to a lien. As no contractual terms had been discussed between the insured and the defendants, the defendants could assert no contractual lien. The defendants were also not entitled to a particular lien arising where a person had expended skill and labour in the improvement or repair of the vehicle. The recovery of the vehicle, storage, the production of an estimate and

Unjust enrichment in Ireland


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