Trespass to Chattels

Comment by TruCounsel editor:
When comparing the selections from Bader v. Cerri, 96 Nev. 352, 356, 609 P.2d 314, 317 (Nev., 1980) to the REST 2d TORTS § 222A, comment c. listed below, it seems possible that Nevada's tort of conversion completely encompasses the traditional trespass to chattels tort because Nevada's conversion tort envisions the possible return of the chattel. If you disagree, please state your reasons for disagreeing on the Discussion page.]

  • Returned and unreturned property

Nevada case law does not suggest that the measure of damages is a part of the definition of conversion. Neither does Nevada case law declare the full value of the property converted to be the sole measure of damages. Of course, the full value of the property at the time of conversion may be one measure of the damage sustained. Dixon v. Southern Pacific Co., 42 Nev. 73, 172 P. 368, 177 P. 14, 179 P. 382 (1918). This measure is appropriate when the defendant keeps possession of the property he has converted. This measure of damage, however, is not appropriate when the property is returned by the converter to the injured party. That is what happened in the case at hand.

Bader v. Cerri, 96 Nev. 352, 356, 609 P.2d 314, 317 (Nev., 1980).

  • Recovery of full value of chattel.

The importance of the distinction between trespass to chattels and conversion, which has justified its survival long after the forms of action of trespass and trover have become obsolete, lies in the measure of damages. In trespass the plaintiff may recover for the diminished value of his chattel because of any damage to it, or for the damage to his interest in its possession or use. Usually, although not necessarily, such damages are less than the full value of the chattel itself. In conversion the measure of damages is the full value of the chattel, at the time and place of the tort. When the defendant satisfies the judgment in the action for conversion, title to the chattel passes to him, so that he is in effect required to buy it at a forced judicial sale. Conversion is therefore properly limited, and has been limited by the courts, to those serious, major, and important interferences with the right to control the chattel which justify requiring the defendant to pay its full value.
REST 2d TORTS § 222A, comment c.