Trespass to Chattels

Definition - What does Trespass to Chattels mean?

Trespass to chattels is a common law tort cause of action. To prove trespass to chattels, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant intentionally used or meddled with the plaintiff’s possession. This use or meddling must have caused the plaintiff some demonstrable harm, which is usually proven through some diminished value or quality of the chattel resulting from the trespass.

Justipedia explains Trespass to Chattels

Trespass to chattels is similar to the crime of petty theft. It most often involves a defendant intentionally using or preventing the use of the plaintiff’s possession.

Trespass to chattels provides plaintiffs, who may not prevail with a full-blown conversion cause of action, with a means to recover losses when the defendant’s use of the plaintiff’s possession caused the plaintiff harm.

An example of trespass to chattel is when someone uses another’s cell phone, without permission, at the time the owner of the cell phone needed to be on a call to make a business deal. If the deal falls through and the cell phone owner loses money, the owner may sue for trespass to chattels.

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