Sales – Conditional Sales – Punitive Damages for Forcible Repossession of Chattel

Plaintiff purchased a truck under a conditional sales contract which was assigned to the defendant finance company. He drove the truck to the place of business of the defendant to adjust differences between the two parties, but when he attempted to leave after no agreement had been reached, he discovered that the keys had been removed from the truck. When informed that the truck had been repossessed, the plaintiff produced another set of keys but was unable to leave with the truck. The testimony of the plaintiff that an agent of the defendant seized his hand to prevent the unlocking of the ignition switch was contradicted by testimony for the defendant. However, the branch manager of the defendant testified that he stood on the left running board while the plaintiff sat under the steering wheel, and that he told the plaintiff ”he wasn’t going to leave in the truck.” In the conversion action which followed, the jury awarded $100 compensatory damages and $800 punitive damages. On appeal, held, affirmed. Regardless of whether physical contact between the parties occurred, the statement by the branch manager constituted a threat of violence to the plaintiff, was so intended by the manager, and was so understood by the plaintiff. Since a conditional vendor or his assignee are not entitled to use force or threat of force to repossess a chattel, the trial court correctly allowed punitive damages. Kensinger Acceptance Corp. v. Davis, (Ark. 1954) 269 S.W. (2d) 792.