Is Someone Interfering with Property Use? You May Have a Remedy Under Law

by RyanD on August 21, 2012

  • Sumo

(US property law) When someone harms another person, through intentional or negligent acts, a tort occurs. It may include a criminal act, but it is not always the case. A tort is a claim brought by one person, the plaintiff, against another person, the defendant. The tort of conversion happens when someone intentionally interferes with another individual’s possession and enjoyment of personal property. If you have been the victim of conversion, consult an attorney for more information.

There are specific circumstances under which conversion happens and all these elements must be present for a claim of conversion to succeed.


The plaintiff must have the right of ownership of the property at issue in the complaint. If your friend leaves a piece of furniture at your house, and then reclaims it a year later, it may or may not be conversion. If you purchased the furniture from your friend, or the furniture was given in lieu of rent, you may indeed have conversion. Right of ownership must be determined in a conversion case.

Intentional Interference

Someone must intentionally and voluntarily take possession of your personal property with the purpose of exercising control over it. Accidental or temporary interference is not necessarily sufficient cause for bringing action against an individual. If a housekeeper is cleaning off your dresser and puts the objects in an apron pocket in order to dust, and then forgets to replace them until the next week, it may not be conversion.

Deprived of Use or Enjoyment

Conversion must contain the element of depriving the plaintiff of possession, use or enjoyment of his personal property. If a visitor to your home takes a ring from your jewelry box and sells it, or keeps it permanently, a complaint of conversion is possible. Conversion may also include intentional destruction or damage which deprives you of enjoyment or use.

Caused Damage

There must be damage for conversion to occur. The kind and extent of damage varies in conversion cases.  Damage may cause financial hardship or lead to emotional pain.  The amount of damages is usually based on the type of property involved and the degree to which the act interferes with the plaintiff’s daily activities.

Affirmative Defense and Strict Liability

Affirmative defense is where a defendant admits to the charge but claims that there was good reason for committing the offense. The reason or excuse offered is intended to mitigate or prevent the plaintiff’s charge in whole or in part.  Affirmative defense is not recognized as a valid defense in conversion cases. If an individual takes something of value from your home because you owed him money, the defendant may not use that as a defense for conversion. Conversion is a tort of strict liability. Regardless of the reason for the conversion, the perpetrator will be held responsible and liable for damages.

Economic loss, emotional pain and anguish, disruption of daily life and the loss of the benefits of your personal property are all forms of injury resulting from conversion. If you have been deprived of your personal property through theft or damage or other means of conversion, you should seek legal advice. An attorney can guide you through the process of determining damages and assist you with your legal action.

Ryan Devereux writes on behalf of California Bail Bonds, where you can easily locate a bail bondsman in the state of California.

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