CACI 2101 Trespass to Chattels—Essential Factual Elements

California Civil Jury Instructions CACI

2101 Trespass to Chattels—Essential Factual Elements

[Name of plaintiff] claims that [name of defendant] wrongfully trespassed on [his/her/nonbinary pronoun/its] personal property. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:

1.That [name of plaintiff] [owned/possessed/had a right to possess] a [insert item of personal property];

2.That [name of defendant] intentionally [insert one or more of the following:]

[interfered with [name of plaintiff]’s use or possession of the [insert item of personal property];]


[damaged the [insert item of personal property];]

3.That [name of plaintiff] did not consent;

4.That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and

5.That [name of defendant]’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm.

Sources and Authority

“Trespass to chattel, although seldom employed as a tort theory in California … , lies where an intentional interference with the possession of personal property has proximately caused injury. Prosser notes trespass to chattel has evolved considerably from its original common law application—concerning the asportation of another’s tangible property—to include even the unauthorized use of personal property: ‘Its chief importance now,’ according to Prosser, ‘is that there may be recovery … for interferences with the possession of chattels which are not sufficiently important to be classed as conversion, and so to compel the defendant to pay the full value of the thing with which he has interfered. Trespass to chattels survives today, in other words, largely as a little brother of conversion.’ ” (Thrifty-Tel, Inc. v. Bezenek (1996) 46 Cal.App.4th 1559, 1566–1567 [54 Cal.Rptr.2d 468], footnotes and internal citations omitted.)

“Where the conduct complained of does not amount to a substantial interference with possession or the right thereto, but consists of intermeddling with or use of or damages to the personal property, the owner has a cause of action for trespass or case, and may recover only the actual damages suffered by reason of the impairment of the property or the loss of its use.” (Zaslow v. Kroenert (1946) 29 Cal.2d 541, 551 [176 P.2d 1], internal citations omitted.)

“ ‘Though not amounting to conversion, the defendant’s interference must, to be actionable, have caused some injury to the chattel or to the plaintiff’s rights in it. Under California law, trespass to chattels “lies where an intentional interference with the possession of personal property has proximately caused injury.” In cases of interference with possession of personal property not amounting to conversion, “the owner has a cause of action for trespass or case, and may recover only the actual damages suffered by reason of the impairment of the property or the loss of its use.” …’ ” (Jamgotchian v. Slender (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 1384, 1400–1401 [89 Cal.Rptr.3d 122], original italics, internal citations omitted.)

“It is well settled that a person having neither the possession nor the right to the possession of personal chattels, cannot maintain trespass or trover for an injury done to the property.” (Triscony v. Orr (1875) 49 Cal. 612, 617, internal citations omitted.)

“In order to prevail on a claim for trespass based on accessing a computer system, the plaintiff must establish: (1) defendant intentionally and without authorization interfered with plaintiff’s possessory interest in the computer system; and (2) defendant’s unauthorized use proximately resulted in damage to plaintiff.” (eBay, Inc. v. Bidder’s Edge (N.D. Cal. 2000) 100 F.Supp.2d 1058, 1069–1070, internal citations omitted.)

“[W]e uphold both the economic and emotional distress damages plaintiffs recovered for trespass to personal property arising from [defendant]’s act of intentionally striking [plaintiff’s dog] with a bat.” (Plotnik v. Meihaus (2012) 208 Cal.App.4th 1590, 1608 [146 Cal.Rptr.3d 585].)

Restatement Second of Torts, section 218, provides:

One who commits a trespass to a chattel is subject to liability to the possessor of the chattel if, but only if,

(a)he dispossesses the other of the chattel, or

(b)the chattel is impaired as to its condition, quality, or value, or

(c)the possessor is deprived of the use of the chattel for a substantial time, or

(d)bodily harm is caused to the possessor, or harm is caused to some person or thing in which the possessor has a legally protected interest.

Restatement Second of Torts, section 222, comment (a), states: “Normally any dispossession is so clearly a serious interference with the right of control that it amounts to a conversion; and it is frequently said that any dispossession is a conversion. There may, however, be minor and unimportant dispossessions, such as taking another man’s hat by mistake and returning it within two minutes upon discovery of the mistake, which do not seriously interfere with the other’s right of control, and so do not amount to conversion. In such a case the remedy of the action of trespass remains, and will allow recovery of damages for the interference with the possession.”

Secondary Sources

Ahart, California Practice Guide: Enforcing Judgments & Debts, Ch. 2-C, Tort Liability, ¶ 2:427.4 et seq. (The Rutter Group)
1 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 16, Landlord-Tenant Tort Liabilities, § 16.07 (Matthew Bender)
48 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 550, Trespass, § 550.13 (Matthew Bender)
22 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 225, Trespass, § 225.262 (Matthew Bender)