Sunbolf v Alford – Case Summary

Sunbolf v Alford

Court of Exchequer

Citations: (1838) 3 Meeson and Welsby 248.


The defendant was an innkeeper. He detained the claimant and assaulted him to take possession of his coat after the claimant failed to pay his bills. The claimant sued for assault and false imprisonment.

  1. Could the defendant rely on the fact that the claimant owed him money as a defence to assault or false imprisonment?

The Court held in the claimant’s favour and awarded damages for trespass.

This Case is Authority For…

A person is not allowed to detain, assault, or take another’s worn property without their consent, regardless of whether they are owed money.


Lord Abinger noted that allowing a person to detain another over a debt would theoretically allow them to imprison the claimant for life, a ‘monstrous’ proposition.