Trespass to chattel is the intentional and wrongful interference of another person's personal property. Unlike trespass to land, simple use of another person's personal property is not enough to establish a claim for trespass.
Intentional interference means the intent to use or interfere with the personal property of another. It does not matter that the person interfering with the property did not know that the property belonged to a particular person. Instead, the determining factor is whether the interfering person damaged or possessed personal property that properly belonged to another.
In order for there to be wrongful interference, one of three things needs to occur:
Both trespass to chattel and conversion are intended to protect the wrongful, intentional interference of personal property. The difference, however, is the degree of possession the interfering person has assumed. If the interfering person has merely challenged the right of possession, then there has been a trespass to chattel. If the interfering person, however, has created a virtual "forced sale" of the property to himself, then there is conversion.
For example, if someone steals property from you and you are able to recover the property with minimal or no damages, then you may have a cause of action in trespass to chattel. If, however, the same person steals the property and sells it to another, then you will have a cause of action in conversion.
For a long period of time, trespass to chattel was rarely used as a cause of action. Recently, however, as the internet has expanded, the trespass to chattel cause of action has been revived, particularly in spam email liability. Nonetheless, if you feel that your personal property has been substantially interfered with by another person or party, then seeking out an intentional tort or injury attorney will assist in recovering on your claim.
Last Modified: 07-27-2015 05:27 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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