Sunday, July 3, 2016

MBE Fast Fact: Trespass to Chattel

Intentional torts tend to be relatively straight-forward but there is one aspect of trespass that can be counter-intuitive and so I thought it worth mentioning. Trespass to chattel is the intentional interference with the plaintiff's chattel resulting in damages. The intent requirement can cause some problems here. For this purpose, intent consists of a desire or knowledge that the chattel will be involved without regard to whether the defendant actually knows that the chattel belongs to the plaintiff, or that the plaintiff's rights are being violated.

In other words, if defendant takes a coat thinking that it belongs to the defendant but in fact belongs to plaintiff, that mistake alone is not enough for the defendant to claim that the defendant did not have the requisite intent to commit this tort. Defendant intended to take the coat, and the intent to take the coat is enough. It's worth noting that these same types of questions can come up in questions testing trespass to land. If someone walks onto the property of another thinking that the land is his own, the requisite intent for trespass to land is still satisfied if there was an intent to enter the land.

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