Necessity law of agency

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Agency of necessity

A person who acts to save the property of another, or gives him some other form of assistance, may as a matter of law be regarded as an agent of necessity. The doctrine of agency of necessity is confined to fairly narrow limits. In general four conditions must be satisfied.

1:principal ’s property has been entrusted to Agent. In Great Northern Railway v Swaffield a horse was sent by rail and on its arrival at its destination there was no one to collect it. GNR incurred the expense of stabling the horse for the night. It was held that GNR was an agent of necessity and therefore had authority to incur that expense.

2: There must be an emergency, making it necessary for Agent to act. In Prager v Blatspiel A bought skins as agent for P but was unable to send them to Principal because of prevailing war conditions. Being unable to communicate with Principal he sold the skins. It was held that Agent was not an agent of necessity, because he could have stored skins until the end of the war. There was no real emergency.

3 The agent must have acted in the interests of the principal and not for his own convenience. In Sachs v Miklos M agreed to store S’s furniture. Some considerable time later M decided that he needed the storage space for his own use. He tried to contact S to get the furniture removed but was unable to do so, so he sold the furniture. When S found out he sued M for wrongfully disposing of the furniture. It was held that M was liable. His argument that he had acted as an agent of necessity in disposing of the furniture was dismissed since he had sold it merely for his own convenience.

4: It must be impossible to communicate with P get instructions from him. In Springer v Great Western Railway a consignment of fruit was found by the carrier to be going bad. The carrier sold the consignment locally instead of delivering it to its destination. It was held that the carrier was not an agent of necessity because he could have obtained new instructions from the owner of the fruit. He was therefore liable in damages to the owner.