When it comes to personal property, the law of torts allows for an aggrieved person to use one of two causes of action to pursue a case for damages. While the two causes of action may seem similar, they are in fact quite different. These two methods of recovery are not interchangeable. Rather, depending on the destruction of the personal property or the deprivation to the owner of his or her personal property, these factors will weigh heavily in determining which method of recovery you and your lawyer will utilize to maximize your recovery. The two causes of action, trespass to chattels and conversion, will each be discussed in turn.
Under the theory of conversion, a person may recovery for the distinct and unauthorized act of dominion or ownership that is exercised by a person who is not the owner of the property. Put differently, if John owns item X and Jane takes item X without John’s consent and ultimately destroys it, Jane is liable under the theory of conversion. Other acts which may constitute conversion under the laws of Massachusetts:
(1) depriving another of their property;
(2) destroying or altering the property;
(3) using the property in a manner which seriously violates the right of the owner to control its use;
(4) receiving possession of the property from another with intent to acquire it for himself or for another;
(5) refusing to surrender the property upon reasonable demand after a reasonable opportunity to identify the true owner. Continue reading →