Meaning of Conversion
A conversion is an act of willful interference , without lawful justification, with any chattel a manner inconsistent with the right of another, whereby that other is deprived of the use and possession of it. A person who treats goods as if they were his when they are not, is liable to be sued in conversion
Winfield defines conversion as, "any act in relation to the goods of a person which constitutes an unjustifiable denial of his right to them." Conversion is the wrongful taking or using or destroying of the goods.
An act of conversion may be committed :
1. When the property is wrongfully taken :
Anyone who without authority takes possession of another man's goods with the intention of asserting dominion over them is guilty of conversion. A mere taking unaccompanied by an intention to exercise permanent or temporary dominion may be a trespass and not conversion.
2. When it is wrongfully parted with :
If a man who is entrusted with the goods of another, puts them into the hands of a third person contrary to orders, it is a conversion. The wrongful act is done when he purports to give to the third person along with the mere possession some right over the property it self.
3. When it is wrongfully sold :
Any person, who, however innocently, obtains possession of the goods of a person who has been fraudulently deprived of them, and disposes of them, whether for his own benefit or that of any other person, is guilty of conversion. Wrongful sale of goods is conversion.
4. When it is wrongfully retained .
Where a man has possession of another's chattel and refuses to deliver it this is an assertion of a right inconsistent with his general dominion over it and consequently amounts to an act of conversion.
5. When it is wrongfully destroyed :
Destruction of a chattel belonging to another is an act of conversion, for its effect is to deprive the owner of it altogether e.g. spinning cotton into yarn or grinding corn into flour if done without the authority of the owner.
Richardson V/s. Atkinson 1723 1 Str.576 -- The defendant drew out some wine out of the plaintiffs cask and mixed water with the reminder to make good the deficiency. He was held liable for the conversion of the whole cask as he had converted part of the contents by taking them away and the remaining part by destroying their identity.
6. When there is a denial of the lawful owners right :
Interference with a chattel in a manner inconsistent with the right of the owner accompanied by a denial of title of the owner amounts to conversion.