What is a Legal Claim for Conversion?

Conversion is an intentional tort. It happens when one person improperly takes, alters, or uses another person’s personal property in a way that is inconsistent with the owner’s rights.

For example, suppose that the owner of a small bakery hires a pair of brothers to move the store from one location to another. The brothers put the baking pans and various kitchen ingredients into the moving truck and instead of taking the items to the new bakery, the brothers take the items to their grandmother’s home and ask her to do some Christmas baking.  In this case, the brothers may be liable for conversion because making baked goods from the baker’s supplies prevented the baker from using those supplies to bake goods and sell them in the new bakery. Another simple example would be if someone takes your car out joyriding and is involved in an auto accident, so that you yourself are unable to use your car for transportation purposes.

To prove conversion, a plaintiff must prove:

  • The defendant takes, uses, or changes the plaintiff’s property somehow.
  • The defendant’s use or change prevents or hinders the plaintiff from using her own property in some way.
  • Being unable to use the property the way she wanted to caused damages to the plaintiff.

The defendant doesn’t always have to physically take the property in order to commit conversion. For example, a farmer was growing pumpkins to sell at market. A neighbor comes to the pumpkin patch and carves all the pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns, but leaves them in the patch. Now the farmer can’t sell the pumpkins at market. The neighbor is liable for conversion, even though the neighbor didn’t mean to hurt the farmer and didn’t know he intended to sell the pumpkins at market.

As a general rule, the damages for conversion are measured by the amount necessary to compensate the plaintiff for all actual losses or injuries sustained as a natural and proximate result of the defendant’s wrong.  The ordinary measure of damages is the value of the property converted at the time and place of conversion.

If your personal property has been used or altered by another and you’ve suffered damages, contact the auto accident lawyer Memphis TN goes to time and time again.

Thanks to our friends and contributors at Wiseman Bray PLLC who have significant experience fighting for injury victims in Tennessee.