INTENTIONAL INTERFERENCE WITH PROPERTY
In this chapter, we consider various kinds of intentional interferences with plaintiff’s goods and land. We are concerned primarily with three torts: (1) trespass to land; (2) trespass to chattels (i.e., goods); and (3) conversion (the taking of goods). Here are the main concepts in this chapter:
- Trespass to land: Trespass to land occurs when the defendant enters the plaintiff’s land, or causes another person or an object to enter the plaintiff’s land.
- Intentional trespass: As a matter of semantics, the phrase “trespass to land” usually covers only intentional entry on another’s land. (Negligent entry is also a tort, but it is usually classified as an aspect of the general tort of negligence, and is not covered in this chapter.)
- Trespass to chattels: The tort of “trespass to chattels” occurs when the defendant intentionally interferes with the plaintiff’s use or possession of a “chattel” (i.e., a piece of personal property, such as a car or a diamond ring).
- Loss of possession: The tort occurs when D interferes with the owner’s “possession” of the good, even if it is a brief interference (e.g., an unauthorized “borrowing” of the item, such as taking a neighbor’s lawnmower for 10 minutes, or taking his car for a two-block joy ride).
- Conversion: The tort of conversion occurs when D so substantially interferes with P’s possession or ownership of property that it is fair to require D to pay the property’s full value.
- Dividing line: So the dividing line between trespass to chattels and conversion is the line between a not-so-serious interference with possession (trespass to chattels) and a serious interference with possession, or complete destruction, of the item (conversion).
I. TRESPASS TO LAND
A. Definition: A trespass to land can occur when the defendant enters the plaintiff’s land, or causes another person or an object to enter the plaintiff’s land.
1. Wrongfully remaining: Alternatively, it can occur if the defendant remains on the plaintiff’s land without the right to be there, even if she initially entered rightfully.