An action for conversion cannot occur if a defendant has ownership or partial ownership to the property. Cases revolve around the specific facts concerning ownership. In Hartford Fire Ins. Co. v. Westamerica Bank, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5406, 8-9 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 22, 2010), the court held that a cause of action for conversion requires “(1) the plaintiff’s ownership or right to possession of the property; (2) the defendant’s conversion by a wrongful act or disposition of property rights; and (3) damages.” Even where the ownership interest in the property is conditioned on default, once the condition has been met, this is a sufficient possessory interest to support a cause of action for conversion.
In Whittington v. Indianapolis Motor Speedway Found., Inc., 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 7524 (7th Cir. Ind. Apr. 13, 2010), the court held that the plaintiff must prove his right to possession on the strength of his own title, not merely the weakness of the defendant’s title or right to possession. The burden only shifts to the defendant to show a right of possession after the plaintiff first establishes a prima facie case of right of possession.
A person having an interest in personal property cannot convert the same by wrongfully taking it out of the possession of another, or by doing some other act that amounts to a conversion. In White v. Phelps, 12 N.H. 382, 385 (N.H. 1841), it was held that a removal of property such as sale and delivery, by a person to a distance, thereby depriving another possession of such property would be an evidence of conversion. The fact that the plaintiff is indebted to the defendant is not a defense.