Conversion and Detinue
Is your business missing money? Has someone stolen something that belongs to you? Or maybe a recently departed employee just hasn't returned the company laptop or smartphone. The common law tort of conversion, and the right of action in "detinue," evolved to address situations like these. The law of conversion and detinue is not aimed at punishing thieves but is designed to facilitate the recovery of property and to remedy injuries caused by tortious interference with property rights. There are many types of lawyers and law firms, and choosing the right one can be critical. If another business or individual has stolen your property, you will want to retain a civil lawyer experienced with litigating conversion claims in Virginia's courts. At BerlikLaw, our team of conversion lawyers can help you get your property back or recover damages for its value.
To file a lawsuit for theft or conversion, you will need to allege (and eventually prove) (1) that you owned the property, or at least had a right to possession, at the time the property was stolen (converted) and (2) that the person who took the property wrongfully exercised dominion or control over the property, thereby depriving you of your right of possession. It probably goes without saying that a conversion action can only be brought by someone entitled to immediate possession of the property. It is not required, however, to be an owner of the property in question; even temporary possessory rights can be sufficient to entitle one to sue for conversion. It is also not requried to prove the alleged converter is a thief; a person can be liable in conversion even if he honestly believed the property belonged to him.
Money can be the subject of a conversion claim only in limited circumstances, such as when the money is part of a segregated or identifiable fund (i.e., a fund that is separate from the defendant's general funds). Virginia courts have recognized conversion claims where the money at issue consisted of funds transferred from a corporate bank account to a personal account.
It's not always required to show a physical taking of property. Conversion requires an affirmative act on the part of the converter, but that act can come in the form of any assumption of control or ownership over the property, or some act in which the owner of the property is deprived of his right to use it.
Owners of converted property aren't required to seek its return. Virginia law gives them the option to sue for its value instead, on a theory of an implied contract of sale. Owners may waive the tort of conversion and sue instead on the theory that property was transferred pursuant to an implied contract to pay the value of the property at the time of conversion. Of course, if the nature of the claim is based on an alleged breach of an actual, express contract, the proper cause of action will be for breach of contract, not conversion.
BerlikLaw attorneys are on the forefront of conversion litigation. Give us a call and experience our cost-effective, results-oriented litigation solutions for yourself.