The Guide is an invaluable online tool for litigation and transactional attorneys. The Guide provides for more than 70 common law causes of action:

- Each action’s elements;
- The most recent state and federal cases that cite the actions’ elements;
- The applicable statute of limitations for each action; and
- Defenses to each cause of action.
- AND, The Guide is updated annually.

FREE – No credit card or payment required. Testimonials

Conversion

1 Elements and Case Citations

  1. Plaintiff owned, possessed, or had a right to possess, an item of personal property;
  2. Defendant intentionally took wrongful possession of, disposed of, and/or prevented Plaintiff from having access to, the property for a significant period of time; and
  3. Plaintiff was harmed by Defendant’s actions.

As an alternative to element (2), where the defendant’s original possession was not tortious, the allegation can be made that the defendant refused to return the item after the plaintiff demanded its return.  See Atwood v. Southern California Ice Co., 63 Cal. App. 343, 345 (1923); Cerra v. Blackstone, 172 Cal. App. 3d 604, 609 (1985) (“Unjustified refusal to turn over possession on demand constitutes conversion even where possession by the withholder was originally obtained lawfully”); cf. Igauye v. Howard, 114 Cal. App. 2d 122, 127 (1952) (“A demand for return of the property is not a condition precedent to institution of the action when possession was originally acquired by a tort as it was in this case.”).

“A cause of action for conversion of money may be stated where a defendant interferes with a plaintiff's possessory interest in a specific, identifiable sum.”  Ali v. Humana Inc., No. 12-cv-00509-AWI-GSA, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87073, at *5 (E.D. Cal. ­June 22, 2012) (citing Kim v. Westmoore Partners, Inc., 201 Cal. App. 4th 267, 284 (2011)).

Conversion is a strict liability tort.  The defendant need not have intent or knowledge.  Moore v. Regents of Univ. of Cal., 51 Cal. 3d 120, 144 & n.38 (1990); see Burlesci v. Petersen, 68 Cal. App. 4th 1062, 1066 (1998) (“questions of the defendant’s good faith, lack of knowledge, and motive are ordinarily immaterial”); but see Collin v. American Empire Ins. Co., 21 Cal. App. 4th 787, 812 (1994) (“a necessary element of the tort is an intent to exercise ownership over property which belongs to another.  For this reason, conversion is considered an intentional tort.”).

CALIFORNIA STATE COURTS

Supreme Court of California: Moore v. Regents of Univ. of Cal., 51 Cal. 3d 120, 136 & 144 n.38 (1990); De Vries v. Brumback, 53 Cal. 2d 643, 647 (1960).

California 1st Dist.: Shopoff & Cavallo LLP v. Hyon, 167 Cal. App. 4th 1489, 1507 (2008).

California 2d Dist.: Los Angeles Federal Credit Union v. Madatyan, 209 Cal. App. 4th 1383, 1387 (2012).

California 3d Dist.:  Gilman v. Dalby, 176 Cal. App. 4th 606, 615 n.1 (2009).

California 4th Dist.:  Kim v. Westmoore Partners, Inc., 201 Cal. App. 4th 267, 284 (2011).

California 5th Dist.:  Halajian v. D & B Towing, 209 Cal. App. 4th 1, 9 (2012); Mendoza v. Cont’l Sales Co., 140 Cal. App. 4th 1395, 1404-05 (2006).

California 6th Dist.:  Avidor v. Sutter’s Place, Inc., 212 Cal. App. 4th 1439, 1452 (2013).

CALIFORNIA FEDERAL COURTS

United States Court of Appeal for the 9th Circuit:  Optional Capital, Inc. v. Kyung Joon KimMindys Cosmetics, Inc. v. Dakar, 611 F.3d 590, 601 (9th Cir. 2010).

Central District:   Yagman v. Galipo, No. CV 12-7908-GW(SHx), 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48713, at *12-13 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 25, 2013).

Eastern District: J & J Sports Prods. v. Benitez, No. 1:12-CV-00735-LJO-SMS, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135971, at *10 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 23, 2013).

Northern District:  J&J Sports Prods. v. Munoz, No. C 12-05780 WHA, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41796, at *6-7 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 25, 2013).

Southern District:  Comercializadora Recmaq Limitada v. Hollywood Auto Mall, LLC, No. 12cv0945 AJB (MDD), 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71292, at *25-26 (S.D. Cal. May 20, 2013).

2 Defenses to Claim for Conversion

(1)   Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 431.30(b)(2) (pleading affirmative defenses), and other standard defenses.  See Chapter 1 for all defenses.

(2)   Statute of Limitations: Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 338(c) (three years).

(3)   Consent: Defendant is not liable where Plaintiff consented to Defendant acquiring  possession of the item. Tavernier v. Maes, 242 Cal. App. 2d 532, 552 (1966).

(4)   Legal Title not required: Plaintiff only must have an immediate right to possess the item at the time of conversion.  Hartford Fin. Corp. v. Burns, 96 Cal. App. 3d 591, 598 (1979); Stan Lee Trading, Inc. v. Holtz, 649 F. Supp. 577, 580 (C.D. Cal. 1986).

(5)   Plaintiff Must Have Right of Possession:  “‘Where plaintiff neither has title to the property alleged to have been converted, nor possession thereof, he cannot maintain an action for conversion.’”  Moore v. Regents of University of California, 51 Cal. 3d 120, 136 (1990).

(6)   Money: Money cannot be the subject of an action for conversion unless it is a specific, identifiable sum.  Haigler v. Donnelly, 18 Cal. 2d 674, 681 (1941).

(7)   Return of Property not Full Defense:  “In a conversion action the plaintiff need show only that he was entitled to possession at the time of conversion; the fact that plaintiff regained possession of the converted property does not prevent him from suing for damages for the conversion.”  Enterprise Leasing Corp. v. Shugart Corp., 231 Cal. App. 3d 737, 748 (1991).

(8)   Lack of Substantial Interference:  A conversion must amount to “substantial interference” with the plaintiff’s rights.  Jordan v. Talbot, 55 Cal. 2d 597, 610 (1961).  As a result “the removal of another’s property and storing it in the owner’s name without any other exercise of dominion or control is not a conversion.”  Id.

(9)   Failure to Mitigate:  A plaintiff has a duty to minimize her damages and where “[s]he knew that the property was being held in storage in her name[,] [i]f she had the funds, or could obtain them by a lien on the property held, she was under a duty to recover her goods as soon as possible and is entitled only to costs of storage for whatever time is reasonable to make new arrangements.”  Jordan v. Talbot, 55 Cal. 2d 597, 610 (1961).
Nature of Remedies:  “The remedies for conversion include specific recovery of the property, damages, and a quieting of title.”  State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co. v. Dep’t of Motor Vehicles, 53 Cal. App. 4th 1076, 1081 (1997).