What is considered to be conversion of personal property?

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What is considered to be conversion of personal property?

Chattel left on another’s real estate by agreement; no specified time given. After a 15 months landowner appropriates chattel for personal use by agreement. I left 1/2 ton of landscaping stone on neighbor’s land right next to our property line. Our neighbor used the stone for a project of his own on his own property, without warning or discussion. Do have we any recourse? Trespass of chattel or conversion; theft?

Asked on September 5, 2010 under Criminal Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Speak with an attorney. Much will depend on the exact facts and details, as well as the recollection of both parties as the terms of the agreement. In brief, if the facts and the terms of the agreement would lead the neighbor to reasonably believe that the stone was abandoned (e.g. the agreement was to leave it there "for a few months" or "until the spring"; the neighbor had tried to contact the stone's owner about the stone but couldn't even get hold of him or her), then they may well have a right to do what they have done. You need an attorney to evaluate these circumstances in order to advise to as to whether you may have a cause of action.

As a practial matter, the best outcome may be to retroactively "sell" the stones to the neighbor at a discount: that way, in an ambiguous situation, you both incur some of the loss, but avoid the cost of litigation.


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