Conversion (tort)


In law, conversion is a tort that deals with the wrongful interference with goods. Conversion involves dealing with a chattel in a manner repugnant to a person's immediate right of possession. The gist of the action is a denial of the plaintiff's dominion over the goods.

The plaintiff must been in actual possession or have an immediate right to possession at the time of the wrong. Absolute ownership is not required.

Stealing something from someone else is one form of conversion. However, conversion is not limited to theft: conversion can also be accomplished by moving, transferring, discarding, hiding, vandalizing, or destroying another person's chattel. Merely using another person's chattel can be grounds for conversion in certain cases.

Remedy for conversion is usually in the form of damages equal to the value of the chattel. The convertor can return possession of the chattel to the complainant, but this is usually not required and can only be accepted in lieu of damages if the complainant agrees. If the complainant wants the chattel returned without any additional monetary damages, they can claim a related tort, detinue.

Conversion and other offenses

Conversion overlaps with the tort of trespass to chattels: the primary difference between the two is that trespass requires an inteference with the plaintiff's actual possession .

Additionally, damages from a trespass claim are based on the harm caused to the plaintiff, rather than the value of the chattel. Many actions can constitute both conversion and trespass. In these cases, a plaintiff must choose which claim to press based on what damages they seek to recover.

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