Thursday, March 19, 2015

MBE Fast Fact: Recapture of Chattels

Within the area of intentional torts, the topic of recapture of chattels tends to cause some difficulty. And with good reason: it's somewhat of a gray area of law with different outlines stating different types of analysis. Here's what should be known for purposes of the MBE:

It's important when analyzing recapture of chattels to determine exactly how the chattels came into the possession of the person from whom the chattel is now being recaptured. Assume that X is the owner of the chattel, and that Y is now in possession of X's chattel.

If Y's possession of the chattel began lawfully, then X may only use peaceful means to recapture the chattel. To the contrary, X may only use force to recapture the chattel from Y if X is in hot pursuit of Y, and if Y has obtained the chattel unlawfully.

How might this play out in a question. Assume that Y has come into possession of X's chattel lawfully. For example, assume X has given a piece of property to Y, and that now Y refuses to return it. If X attempts to recapture the property and uses force in doing so, Y may have a claim against X for battery, even though X was merely attempting to recapture property that belonged to X. This is because the use of force on the part of X would not be allowed in such a situation, so that if X claimed recapture of chattels as a defense to a claim of battery, the defense would fail.

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