Conversion is any interference, possession or disposition of the property of another person, as if it is one’s own without legal justification.
In other words, conversion is dealing with another person’s property as if it is one’s own.
Conversion is any dealing which denies a person of the title, possession, or use of his chattel.
It is the assertion of a right that is inconsistent with the rights of the person who has title.
Conversion includes wrongful taking, wrongful detention, and or wrongful disposition of the property of another person.
Therefore, conversion includes denying a person of the title or possession, or use of his chattel.
It is not necessary to prove that the defendant had intention to deal with the goods. Secondly it is enough to prove that the defendant interfered with the goods.
Also it is immaterial that the defendant does not know that the chattel belongs to another person, for instance, if he innocently bought the goods from a thief. See Lewis v Avery (1972) 1 QB 198.
In criminal law, conversion is known as stealing or theft.Thus, an owner can sue for conversion.
A person who has mere custody, temporary possession can sue any third party who tries to detain, dispose, such chattel.
Differences between Conversion and Trespass, Conversion is different from trespass to chattels in two main respects. These are:
1. In conversion, the conduct of the defendant must deprive the owners of the possession of the chattel, or amount to a denial or dispute of the title of the owner. Conversion is known as stealing or theft in criminal law .Therefore, mere touching or moving of a chattel and so forth, only amount to trespass.
2. To maintain an action in conversion, the plaintiff need not be in actual possession of the chattel at the time of the interference. It is enough if the plaintiff has right to immediate possession of the chattel, that is, the right to demand for immediate possession of the chattel.
Examples of Conversion
Conversion of a chattel, belonging to another person may be committed in many different ways. Examples of conversion include:
2. Using Alteration
4. Damaging, or destroying it
7. Wrongfully refusing to return a chattel
8. Wrongful delivery Wrongful sale or disposition and so forth. Wrongful sale etc.
Where a defendant takes a plaintiffs chattel out of the plaintiff’s possession without lawful justification with the intent of exercising dominion over the goods permanently or even temporarily, there is conversion.
Using a plaintiff’s chattels as if it is one’s own, such as, by wearing the plaintiff’s jewellery.
Alteration: By changing its form howsoever.
Consumption: By eating or using it up.
Destruction: By damaging or obliterating it.
Mere damage of a chattel is not sufficient to make one liable for conversion.
As a general rule of law, mere damage or destruction of a chattel without more, is a trespass to chattel in tort and also a malicious damage in criminal law.
Involuntary receipt of goods is not conversion. However, the receiver must not willfully damage or destroy the goods unless the goods constitute a nuisance.
By Wrongful Delivery
Wrongfully delivery of a person’s chattel to another person who does not have title or right to possession without legal justification is a conversion.
By Wrongful Disposition: Such as by sale, transfer of title or other wrongful disposition.
It is an injury to the plaintiff’s possessory rights in the chattel converted. Whether an act amounts to conversion or not depends on the facts of each case, and the courts have a degree of discretion in deciding whether certain acts amount to a sufficient deprivation of possessory or ownership rights as to constitute conversion.
The Rules Regarding Finding Lost Property
The rules of law applicable to finding a lost property were authoritatively settled by the English Court of Appeal in the case of Parker v British Airways (1982) AllER 834 CA. However, the rules are not often easy to apply. The rules applicable to finding lost property may be summarized as follows:
1. A finder of a chattel acquires no rights over it, unless it has been abandoned, or lost.
He acquires a right to keep it against all persons, except the true owner; or a person who can assert a prior right to keep the chattel, which was subsisting at the time when the finder took the chattel into his care and control.
2. Any servant, or agent who finds a lost property in the course of his employment, does so on behalf of his employer, who by law acquires the rights of a finder.
3. An occupier of land or a building has superior rights to those of a finder, over property or goods in, or attached to the land, or building. Based on this rule, rings found in the mud of a pool in the case of South Staffordshire Water Co. v Sharman (1896) 2 QB 44 and a pre-historic boat discovered six feet below the surface were held as belonging to the land owner in the case of Elwes v Briggs Gas (1886) 33 Ch D 562. 4.
4. However, an occupier of premises does not have superior rights to those of a finder in respect of goods found on or in the premises, except before the finding, the occupier has manifested an intention to exercise control over the premises, and things on it.
In conclusion, Conversion in tort, the central thought of this is the wrongful appropriation of the goods of another as ones own, or wrongful depriving the other of the use and possession of the good permanently or for a substantial time by destroying them or changing their quality.
Conversion can be by taking by disposing, by detention, by using, by destruction or by alteration of the quality of a given chattel.