- Plaintiff owned, possessed, or had a right to possess, an item of personal property;
- 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
- 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).