Ecclestone v Elite Motors [2014] EWHC 29 (QB)

Judgment has been handed down following the trial resulting from what was originally reported as the “custody battle” between Tamara Ecclestone and her former boyfriend Omar Khyami over ownership of a Lamborghini Aventador which he claimed (and she denied) had been given to him as a birthday present. Following their break-up Ms Ecclestone issued two sets of proceedings. The first (originally anonymised under the title APW v WPA) unsuccessfully sought interim injunctions in privacy and harassment. The second sought (as against Mr Kyhami and others) a declaration that she remained the owner of the car and damages for its conversion. An interim injunction was granted restraining any dealings with the car pending trial. Although the disputes between Ms Ecclestone and Mr Khyami were settled shortly before the trial in November 2013, claims and counterclaims by Ms Ecclestone and 2 dealerships to which the car had subsequently been transferred continued. In that continuing litigation Ms Ecclestone withdrew her allegation that she had not given the car to Mr Khyami and decided that she would not give evidence in support of the balance of her claims. Although she later sought to resurrect her case that she had not gifted the car to Mr Khyami, the Judge declined to allow her to do so in the light of her earlier unequivocal abandonment.

In his judgment Dingemans J found that the car had in fact been a gift to Mr Khyami and that the interim injunction had been obtained on the basis of false evidence to the contrary. As the car had in fact belonged to Mr Khyami at all material times, he had been entitled to pass title to Elite Motors which had in turn been entitled to sell it on. Ms Ecclestone was accordingly liable to in conversion to both Elite and the subsequent buyer. She was ordered to deliver up the car, to pay damages for conversion to each and also (as regards the subsequent buyer) to pay a sum pursuant to the cross undertaking in damages.

William McCormick QC and Jonathan Price, instructed by Nigel Tait and Rebecca Toman of Carter-Ruck acted for Mr Khyami.