Conversion Claims in California

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Conversion Claims in California

When someone takes away or prevents your from enjoying the use of your personal property without your consent, you may have a civil claim of conversion against that person in addition to a criminal charge of theft. There are many situations where conversion may exist, such as a repo man wrongfully tows your car away, a neighbor plants some trees on your property without your consent, a relative refuses to return the cash you had him keep for you, or a friend keeps a ring you had lent her for a day.

What Is a Conversion?

A conversion is the intentional interference with the property of another, which deprives the rightful owner's lawful rights to use the property. In order to bring a claim of conversion in California, you must show the following: 

Can Real Property Be Converted in California?

No. Real property (e.g. buildings and houses) cannot be converted. However, fixtures that can be separated from the real property may be converted.

Can Money and Other Financial Instruments Be Converted in California?

Yes. Money and financial instruments, such as stocks and bonds, may be converted.

For money to be converted, it must be a specific sum capable of being identified. However, it does not need to be earmarked.

Is Conversion Limited to the Actual Physical Taking of Another's Personal Property?

No. There are various ways that property can be converted besides being physically taken away. Examples include:

Do I Still Have a Valid Conversion Claim If I Have Regained Control of My Property?

Yes. Having regained control over your converted property does not change the fact that it was converted before.

What Kinds of Remedies Do I Have for My Conversion Claim?

Generally, you may recover the value of your converted property, which could be the fair market value or the lost profits. If the property still exists, you may request to have the actual property be returned to you.

Sometimes, interest and punitive damages may also be awarded. However, most litigation costs incurred for the conversion claim will not be recoverable.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Conversion Claim?

If someone has converted your property, you should speak to an experienced property lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights, your claims, and the complicated legal system. A property attorney can also represent you in court.

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Last Modified: 02-11-2014 04:40 PM PST

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