Posted on Wednesday, January 25th, 2023 at 4:59 pm
If someone has stolen or damaged your personal property and you can no longer use it, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit based on the intentional tort of conversion. An attorney can help you seek maximum compensation for your harm. Wallace Miller has the skill and experience to evaluate your case and explain your legal options. If a lawsuit based on conversion is in your best interest, our legal team is ready to move forward with your case. Call us today at (312) 261-6193 for a free consultation.
What is a conversion case?
Many torts require only that a person acts negligently. However, there is a class of intentional torts. Conversion belongs to this class. When an intentional tort occurs, someone intentionally commits a wrongful act against another person.
Conversion is the deprivation of your right to use or possess your personal property. It does not apply to real estate (real property). If the deprivation of personal property is significant, it may constitute conversion under Illinois law and entitle you to pursue the property’s full value in a conversion case. An attorney can help you seek compensation for your loss.
A person commits a conversion by unreasonably withholding possession from its rightful owner. The elements of conversion are:
- The plaintiff’s ownership or right to possession of the property
- The defendant’s conversion by a wrongful act inconsistent with the property rights of the plaintiff
Since a defendant must have intentionally committed the act, negligence that results in a loss of property does not constitute conversion.
Types of conversion cases
There are a number of ways to commit conversion. You may be able to file a conversion case if another person who is not the lawful possessor of your personal property does one or more of the following:
- Intentionally dispossesses you of the property
- Intentionally uses the property without the proper authority
- Intentionally damages the property
- Sells or receives the property at an unlawful sale intending to keep it or sell it to another person
- Refuses to surrender the property on demand to you or another person entitled to lawful possession
Note that you can bring a conversion claim even if the defendant previously had lawful possession of the property.
Many personal property items may qualify as property which can be the subject of a conversion action. They include but are not limited to:
- Motor vehicles
- Stocks, bonds
To bring a claim for the conversion of cash, stocks, bonds, or other financial instruments, you must specifically identify, describe, or segregate them in a specific manner. In effect, you must allege where the funds were converted and in what amount.
Proving conversion in court
Conversion and another intentional tort, trespass to chattels, are civil causes of action. On the criminal side, the taker of property may be charged with a theft-related crime. Criminal law provides for punishment for the convicted. Civil lawsuits allow you to pursue compensation for your losses.
In Illinois, you must prove four elements to establish a case for conversion of your personal property.
- You have a personal right to a specific piece of property.
- The defendant exercised unlawful control over your property.
- You have the right to immediate possession of your property (having it returned).
- You have demanded the return of your property.
The measure of damages for a conversion claim is the market value of the property at the time and place of the conversion plus legal interest. It is the plaintiff’s burden to show evidence of the property’s reasonable value.
If the converted property has no market value, a conversion claim may still be brought successfully if the actual value of the property, according to the plaintiff, can be found in another rational manner.
Defenses to conversion
If you file a lawsuit for conversion, the defendant may claim one of several defenses to an accusation of conversion. These claims include:
- The defendant had the owner’s consent to use the property.
- The owner abandoned the property.
- The property doesn’t have value.
- The defendant has a right to the property.
- The owner committed an illegal act that precludes their ownership of the property.
- The defendant had the legal authority to take or use the property.
Hiring a conversion lawyer for your case
If you are the victim of a conversion, contact a lawyer with experience handling intentional tort cases. The team of Chicago intentional tort lawyers at Wallace Miller are experienced attorneys who understand Illinois law regarding conversion. Our lawyers will establish the strongest case possible in support of your right to seek compensation. Call Wallace Miller at (312) 261-6193 to schedule a free consultation.