Abandonment is the voluntary relinquishment of ownership so that the property ceases to be the property of any person and becomes the subject of appropriation by the first taker. In some jurisdictions, abandonment of property requires intent plus an act. A sufficient act is one that manifests a conscious purpose and intention of the owner of personal property neither to use nor to retake the property into his possession. The intention to abandon may be inferred from strong and convincing evidence, and may be shown by conduct clearly inconsistent with any intention to retain and continue the use or ownership of the property[i].
To an action for conversion, the fact that the plaintiff abandoned his/her property before the defendant took possession of it makes a complete defense[ii]. A person must be the owner of personal property to recover damages for its conversion. Once the owner has abandoned that same property, he/she ceases to own it and it becomes subject to appropriation by another. A conclusion that abandonment is a complete defense to a conversion action is inescapable[iii].
[i] Herron v. Whiteside, 782 S.W.2d 414 (Mo. Ct. App. 1989)
[ii] Johnson v. Northpointe Apartments, 744 So. 2d 899 (Alabama 1999); Weicht v. Suburban Newspapers of Greater St. Louis, Inc., 32 S.W.3d 592 (Mo. Ct. App. E.D. 2000); Rinden v. Hicks, 119 N.H. 811, 408 A.2d 417 (1979);
[iii] Rodgers v. Crum, 168 Kan. 668 (Kan. 1950)