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Thyroff v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co.

Citation. 864 N.E.2d 1272 (N.Y. 2007)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Defendant took a computer with the plaintiff’s important information on it.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

For the purposes of conversion, electronic files are indistinguishable from paper copies.


Plaintiff rented a computer from the defendant, which he used to run his business.  The rental was terminable at the will of either party. The defendant terminated the contract, and repossessed the computer, which contained all the information the plaintiff used to run his business.  Defendant denied plaintiff access to these records, and plaintiff brought suit for conversion.


Is the defendant liable to the plaintiff for conversion of their property?


Yes, the defendant is liable to the plaintiff.


The court found for the plaintiff, and found that the defendant’s actions were consistent with conversion.  They reason that while conversion is typically physical, tangible property, the realities of a digital age support the extension of the right to intangible property.  The value of the property is in the ideas and information recorded, not the physical paper, and thus protecting the ideas and information is an appropriate extension of conversion.

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