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Related to conversion: conversion disorder, conversion table


Any unauthorized act that deprives an owner of personal property without his or her consent.

The wrongdoer converts the goods to his or her own use and excludes the owner from use and enjoyment of them. The English Common Law early recognized such an act as wrongful and, by the middle of the fifteenth century, allowed an action in Trover to compensate the aggrieved owner.

The earliest cases allowing a lawsuit for conversion were based on claims that the plaintiff had possession of certain items of Personal Property, then casually lost them, and the defendant had found them and had not returned them but instead "converted them to his own use." This phrase was picked up, and it gave a name to a tort that originally was a kind of Action on the Case, a form of Trespass. As time passed, the plea that the plaintiff had lost his or her goods and the defendant had found them came to be considered a legal fiction (that is, a decision was made in the case as if the plea were true, and it did not have to be proved). The defendant was not allowed to dispute the allegations but could answer only the claim that the plaintiff had a right to possession of the goods and the defendant had refused to restore them to the plaintiff.

Today the word conversion is still applied to the unlawful taking or use of someone else's property. The type of property that can be converted is determined by the original nature of the Cause of Action. It must be personal property, because real property cannot be lost and then found. It must be tangible, such as money, an animal, furniture, tools, or receipts. Crops or timber can be subject to conversion after they are severed from the ground. The rights in a paper—such as a life insurance policy, a stock certificate, or a promissory note—can be converted by one who appropriates the paper itself.

A thief, a trespasser, or a bailee may be guilty of conversion because the action may be maintained whether or not the property was lawfully acquired at the outset. For example, a dry cleaner who mistakenly delivers a suit to the wrong customer has converted it. Moving some-one's property without his or her permission might constitute a conversion if the inconvenience is substantial: for example, having some-one's car towed away in order to take the parking place. Unauthorized use is a conversion—such as a mechanic who, without permission, borrows a sports car that he or she is supposed to repair. Misuse of property can also be a conversion. If a neighbor lends his or her hedge trimmer to a friend, it is a conversion for the friend to use the hedge trimmer to cut down a tree.


n. a civil wrong (tort) in which one converts another's property to his/her own use, which is a fancy way of saying "steals." Conversion includes treating another's goods as one's own, holding onto such property which accidently comes into the convertor's (taker's) hands, or purposely giving the impression the assets belong to him/her. This gives the true owner the right to sue for his/her own property or the value and loss of use of it, as well as going to law enforcement authorities since conversion usually includes the crime of theft. (See: theft)


(Change), noun alteration, interchange, metamorphosis, passage, reconstruction, shift, switch, transformation, transition, transmutation
Associated concepts: conversion of a security


(Misappropriation), noun appropriation, defraudation, deprivation, embezzlement, fraud, larceny, malfeasance, misapplication, misappropriation of funds, misemployment, misuse, peculation, theft, thievery, unauuhorized assumption of property, unlawful appropriation, unlawful use of another's property, wrongful assumption, wrongful exercise of dominion
Associated concepts: action for conversion, attachment, conntructive conversion, conversion by assertion of ownership, conversion of goods, conversion of property, conversion of stock, detinue, fraudulent conversion, innocent conversion, involuntary conversion, larceny by conversion, technical conversion, trover, wrongful conversion
See also: appropriation, exchange, misappropriation, persuasion, propaganda, reorganization, taking, transition


the wrong committed by a dealing with the goods of a person that constitutes an unjustifiable denial of his rights in them or his assertion of rights inconsistent with them. Conversion and trespass overlap. To take away the goods of another will be trespass but also maybe conversion. If the taking is temporary, however, and not done to exercise rights over the goods, then there is no conversion. Taking to use the goods is sufficient, it not being necessary to assert ownership over the goods. In English law, it holds that the voluntary receipt by the defendant of the goods from a wrongfully interfering third party is conversion. Abuse of an authorized possession maybe conversion - where goods are pawned, for example. Allowing the goods to be stolen through lack of care, being an omission, is not conversion. Destruction of the goods or alteration of the goods to another species is conversion. It is not known in Scotland although sometimes similar issues arise. The closest analogue is SPUILZIE.

It is also a crime in English law, if fraudulent, under the Theft Act 1968.

CONVERSION. torts. the unlawful turning or applying the personal goods of another to the use of the taker, or of some other person than the, owner; or the unlawful destroying or altering their nature. Bull. N. P. 44; 6 Mass. 20; 14 Pick. 356; 3 Brod. & Bing. 2; Cro. Eliz. 219 12 Mod. 519; 5 Mass. 104; 6 Shepl. 382; Story, Bailm. Sec. 188, 269, 306; 6 Mass. 422; 2 B. & P. 488; 3 B. & Ald. 702; 11 M. & W. 363; 8 Taunt. 237; 4 Taunt. 24.
     2. When a party takes away or wrongfully assumes the right to goods which belong to another, it will in general be sufficient evidence of a conversion but when the original taking was, lawful, as when the party found the goods, and the detention only is illegal, it is absolutely necessary to male a demand of the goods, and there must be a refusal to deliver them before the conversion will, be complete. 1 Ch. Pr. 566; 2 Saund. 47 e, note 1 Ch. Pl. 179; Bac. Ab. Trover, B 1 Com. Dig. 439; 3 Com. Dig. 142; 1 Vin. Ab. 236; Yelv. 174, n.; 2 East, R. 405; 6 East, R. 540; 4 Taunt. 799 5 Barn. & Cr. 146; S. C. 11 Eng. C. L. Rep. 185; 3 Bl. Com. 152; 3 Bouv. Inst. n. 3522, et seq. The refusal by a servant to deliver the goods entrusted to him by his master, is not evidence of a conversion by his master. 5 Hill, 455.
     3. The tortious taking of property is, of itself, a conversion 15 John. R. 431 and any intermeddling with it, or any exercise of dominion over it, subversive of the dominion of the owner, or the nature of the bailment, if it be bailed, is, evidence of a conversion. 1 Nott & McCord, R. 592; 2 Mass. R. 398; 1 Har. & John. 519; 7 John. R. 254; 10 John. R. 172 14 John. R. 128; Cro. Eliz. 219; 2 John. Cas. 411. Vide Trover.

CONVERSION, in equity, The considering of one thing as changed into another; for example, land will be considered as converted into money, and treated as such by a court of equity, when the owner has contracted to sell his estate in which case, if he die before the conveyance, his executors and not his heirs will be entitled to the money. 2 Vern. 52; S., C. 3 Chan. R. 217; 1 B1. Rep. 129. On the other hand, money is converted into land in a variety of ways as for example, when a man agrees to buy land, and dies before he has received the conveyance, the money he was to pay for it will be considered as converted into lands, and descend to the heir. 1 P. Wms. 176 2 Vern. 227 10 Pet. 563; Bouv. Inst. Index, h.t.

References in classic literature ?
The conversion of nutriment of any sort into oil of the quality already mentioned appears to be a process so inseparable from the constitution of this exemplary vessel that in beginning to eat and drink, he may be described as always becoming a kind of considerable oil mills or other large factory for the production of that article on a wholesale scale.
Conversion may come under many shapes, and it may be brought about in many ways.
The result was a conversion of a kind quite common today.
To let any one suppose that he was jealous would be to admit their (suspected) view of his disadvantages: to let them know that he did not find marriage particularly blissful would imply his conversion to their (probably) earlier disapproval.
It was not until dinner was almost over that she abandoned a conversion into which she had thrown herself with spirit.
She was more confused than astonished or frightened when I sat down by her on the sofa, and repeated the principal topics of my conversion with Mrs.
The afforestation of the district, however, and its conversion into a royal demesne had clipped off a large section of his estate, while other parts had been confiscated as a punishment for his supposed complicity in an abortive Saxon rising.
Jackson, who had lost his arm in the Sierra Mills and who had been the cause of my own conversion into a revolutionist, I never saw again; but we all knew what he did before he died.
Of this chamber, Nicholas became the tenant; and having hired a few common articles of furniture from a neighbouring broker, and paid the first week's hire in advance, out of a small fund raised by the conversion of some spare clothes into ready money, he sat himself down to ruminate upon his prospects, which, like the prospect outside his window, were sufficiently confined and dingy.
In considering transitions of organs, it is so important to bear in mind the probability of conversion from one function to another, that I will give one more instance.
The indented coast and the bottom of the neighbouring sea, studded with breakers, would, if converted into dry land, present similar forms; and such a conversion without doubt has taken place in the part over which we rode.
The rectory took much notice of him about that time, and I believe the young ladies attempted to prepare the ground for his conversion.