The New International Encyclopædia/Detinue
DET′INUE (OF. detinu, from Lat. detinere, from de, back, + tenere, to hold). A personal common-law action for the recovery of specific goods and chattels, wrongfully detained from the claimant, together with damages for their detention and costs of the action. The chattels must be such as can be distinguished from others; the action would not lie where claimant's property, as wheat, was lawfully mixed with other wheat so that it could not be separated. The action is not based on contract, express or implied, but is for the redress of a wrong. The value of the chattel is always alleged in the declaration, and if the chattels have been destroyed, or cannot be returned for any reason, the plaintiff may recover their value. It is immaterial whether the defendant came into possession of the chattels lawfully or wrongfully. It is sufficient if he has no present right to retain them as against the claimant. Thus, if the defendant held goods as a gratuitous bailee, his possession would be lawful until a demand was made by the proper party for their return; but in case of refusal to do so, the claimant might maintain detinue, as the detention would then be unlawful. Demand before suit is not necessary if the original taking was wrongful. Possession of the chattels cannot be obtained until final judgment, and in this respect it is not so desirable as replevin (q.v.), where the plaintiff gets immediate possession. The plaintiff must have a general or special property or interest in the chattels and a right to immediate possession in order to maintain the action. A judgment for the plaintiff was formerly enforced by a special form of execution, called a writ of distringas (q.v.). This form of action has been abolished in England, but is retained in several of the United States. See Common Forms; Common Law; Pleading; Replevin; Trover.