Posted on Wednesday, February 15th, 2023 at 4:27 pm
A trespass to chattels refers to another person’s intentional, wrongful use of your personal property. If you can prove the elements of a claim based on the intentional tort of trespass to chattels, you might be able to win compensation for your losses in an Illinois civil court.
Whether you are trying to recover money damages for trespass to chattels, facing criminal charges, or consulting an attorney for legal advice, navigating the Illinois legal system requires having as much information as possible beforehand to give you the best chance of success.
What is trespass to chattels
Maneuvering through the legal process with a trespass to chattels claim requires understanding what meets the definition of a chattel under Illinois law. The next step is determining if the alleged wrongful act meets the definition of a trespass.
What is a chattel
A chattel is tangible personal property, such as jewelry, furniture, clothing, or even pets. It does not apply to real estate or real property. An Illinois court has held that digital information in the form of data files on a USB drive is not tangible personal property and, therefore, does not meet the definition of chattel as defined by Illinois law. Thus, you cannot base a trespass to chattels claim on some dispossession of or interference with digital or intangible property.
What is a trespass
In the context of trespass to chattels, trespass refers to an injury to the chattel or interference with rightful possession by its owner. A trespass may occur with or without physical force. This intentional tort can occur if another person intentionally dispossesses you of a chattel. A trespass to chattels can also occur if another person uses or meddles with your possession of the chattel.
Intentionally dispossessing another person of a chattel meets the test of a trespass under Illinois law. A person may commit the act of intentional dispossession by any of these acts:
- Taking a chattel from your possession without your consent
- Obtaining possession by fraud or duress
- Preventing access to a chattel
- Destroying a chattel while in another person’s possession
- Taking the chattel into the custody of the law
Proving trespass to chattels in court
When navigating the legal system, your ultimate goal is to prove your case in court. Establishing a claim for trespass to chattels requires proof that another person intentionally damaged or temporarily seized control of your property without your authority or permission.
A claim based on a theory of trespass to chattels allows you to recover compensation for the diminished value of your property. You may prove this loss by providing evidence of the property’s value before and after the trespass.
You can also base your losses on damage to your interest in the property’s possession or use. You must prove that the wrongful act affected your use or possession of the property, causing you to suffer financial loss.
For example, suppose another person changes the locks on the warehouse doors containing construction equipment you own, which prevents you from leasing it for a day, causing you to lose rental income. In this case, the act likely qualifies as a trespass to chattels. If another person damages the property rendering it useless, the act likely qualifies as a conversion of the property since the loss is total or permanent.
Compensation for trespass to chattels
You are entitled to seek damages in trespass to chattel cases. Damages include compensation for economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses include property damage and loss of income. Unlike damages in most cases based on the intentional tort theory of conversion, damages in trespass to chattel cases are usually less than the chattel’s total value.
Hiring a trespass to chattels lawyer
The goal of the civil lawsuit process is to resolve disputes fairly and promptly. However, this is not always the reality of going to court. Navigating the civil court system is an intimidating undertaking for anyone, especially those with no legal training or knowledge. An experienced attorney can help as you encounter the inherent challenges of filing a civil lawsuit.
Illinois courts refer to legal precedents rather than statutes when deciding cases based on trespass to chattels. An experienced trespass-to-chattels attorney is familiar with the common law associated with this intentional tort. As a result, hiring a trespass-to-chattels lawyer can help ensure that your pursuit of compensation is efficient and effective.
Contact an experienced intentional tort attorney for more information
The experienced trespass-to-chattels lawyers at Wallace Miller can review the circumstances of your situation and determine your best options moving forward. We can help you seek compensation for your financial losses caused by a trespass to chattels. Call (312) 261-6193 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.
Trespass to Land