The tort of conversion consists of a wrongful exercise of dominion or control over the personal property of another. To recover, you must establish that you had possession or the right to possession of the property at issue. You do not have to prove that you owned the property.

You must then show that the defendant intended to exercise control over your property and exercised a serious amount of control over the property. Some factors to be used in establishing the extent of control include, but are not limited to, the amount and duration of the defendant’s control, the defendant’s intent, the severity and duration of the interference, and the inconvenience and expense caused to you. Several acts may amount to a conversion, including, but not limited to, taking the property, destroying or altering it, using the property, and refusing to return it when a demand is made for it.

Money is personal property that may be converted. A defendant who is lawfully in possession of your money may commit conversion when using the money in a manner that exceeds the authority you gave to the defendant, thereby violating your right to control the use of that money.

The measure of damages in a conversion action is the fair market value of the property at the time of the conversion, plus interest from the time of the conversion. Fair market value is the highest price a willing buyer would pay a willing seller.

You, as the victim of a conversion, has the option of reclaiming the property through what is known as replevin, or bringing an action for conversion. By bringing an action for conversion, you grant title in the defendant and, once judgment is satisfied, title vests in the defendant. If you elect to retake the property through replevin, you may still recover for diminution in the property’s value, plus damages for loss of use while the defendant retained control over the property.

If after the property is converted, the defendant changes the property, increases its value, or commingles it, you may not reclaim the property. This is called the doctrine of accession or confusion. In such a case, you may not recover the increased value or reclaim the property. The measure of damages should be the value of the property at the time of the conversion and interest from that date.

Defenses that are normally advanced for conversion, include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Abandonment of property by plaintiff;
  • Authority of law;
  • Consent or approval of plaintiff;
  • Statutes of limitation;
  • Interest of defendant (e.g. defendant has rights to the property);
  • Lack of value of property;
  • Nonexistence or lack of identity of property;
  • Privilege (in certain circumstances and under certain statutes, a defendant has the privilege to claim possession. (Storage facilities after proceeding along statutory lines, can seize stored property, and are privileged to do so));
  • Unlawful and illegal acts; and/or
  • Waiver, ratification, and estoppel.

If you are the victim of conversion, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Advocates Legal Group, LLP can help you determine the value of your claim and can bring the appropriate action for recovery. We will help you prepare your case in a way that demonstrates the other side is responsible for your injuries and other losses. We can also help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your case and build a strategy to ensure the most successful outcome possible. Although recovery can be stressful, you do not need to go at it alone. We will be on your side every step of the way to advise you of your rights, options, and navigate you through the process. Call us now at (508) 796-5737, or email us at, for a free case evaluation.

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