A “conversion” is defined as any unauthorized act that deprives a man of his/her property permanently or for a definite length of time. Acts of conversion are classified as follows:
- a taking from the owner without consent;
- an unwarranted assumption of ownership;
- an illegal use or abuse of the chattel; and
- a wrongful detention after demand.
It is a well-settled rule that if an owner expressly or impliedly assents to or ratifies the taking, use, or disposition of his/her property, he/she cannot recover for conversion thereof. There must be an intent to convert, accompanied by a positive act of conversion. However, an intent to convert will be conclusively presumed if the act was unauthorized by the owner[i]. Thus, consent is a complete defense to a conversion claim[ii]. By the plaintiff’s express or implied consent to an act, an act that would otherwise constitute a conversion may be precluded from having that effect[iii].
[i] Gulf, C. & S. F. R. Co. v. Pratt, 183 S.W. 103 (Tex. Civ. App. 1916)
[ii] Dean Machinery Co. v. Union Bank, 106 S.W.3d 510, 50 U.C.C. Rep. Serv. 2d 431 (Mo. Ct. App. W.D. 2003)
[iii] In re General Plastics Corp., 184 B.R. 996 (Bankr. S.D. Fla. 1995); Weicht v. Suburban Newspapers of Greater St. Louis, Inc., 32 S.W.3d 592 (Mo. Ct. App. E.D. 2000); Lick Creek Sewer Systems, Inc. v. Bank of Bourbon, 747 S.W.2d 317 (Mo. Ct. App. S.D. 1988); Rose Bros., Inc. v. City of Alva, 1960 OK 231, 356 P.2d 1083 (Oklahoma 1960); Michel v. Melgren, 70 Wash. App. 373, 853 P.2d 940 (Div. 3 1993).