To access this feature, please Log In or Register for your Casebriefs Account.

Add to Library




Dueling Remedies: Trespass to Chattels and Conversion


Dueling Remedies: Trespass to Chattels and Conversion


The traditional intentional torts protect not only the inviolability of the body (through the action for battery) and possession of real property (through the action for trespass to land) but also a possessor’s interest in personal property, such as a car, a couch, a book, or a cow. Such personal possessions are referred to as “chattels” under property law, pieces of tangible, movable personal property, as opposed to “real property” such as land.

Over time, several intentional torts evolved to protect against invasions to personal property. If an actor intentionally damaged an owner’s personal property, or temporarily deprived the owner of possession, she was liable for trespass to chattels. If she intentionally deprived the possessor of an item of personal property, as by stealing it, she was liable for conversion. This chapter will discuss and compare these related causes of action for interference with personal property.


The most basic distinction between trespass to chattels and conversion is that trespass to chattels provides a remedy for damage to personal property, or temporary interference with its use, even though the possessor is not permanently deprived of it. If Carter takes Puso’s horse, Flora (conceived in law as a chattel, whatever Flora may think about it) for a three-hour ride, and then returns her to Puso’s barn, he has probably committed trespass to chattels, but he is not liable for conversion. Carter has not permanently deprived Puso of Flora’s use, nor is she damaged by the interference. Or, if Carter throws a rock at Puso’s car, and puts a dent in its door, he has committed trespass to chattels, by damaging the car, but not conversion, since Puso still has the car.

The Second Restatement addresses the elements of a claim for trespass to chattels in two sections. Section 217 defines the ways in which an actor can commit trespass to chattels:

Section 217. Ways of Committing Trespass to Chattel

A trespass to a chattel may be committed by intentionally

(a) dispossessing another of the chattel, or

(b) using or intermeddling with a chattel in the possession of another.

Create New Group

Casebriefs is concerned with your security, please complete the following