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How do conversion and theft differ?

As a business owner, you cannot afford to lose access to your valuable assets. Typically, if someone steals your property, he or she can face criminal charges. However, there are situations in which you may be deprived of the ability to use your property, but this deprivation may not be considered theft, but rather conversion.

An act of conversion entails one party taking the property of another and converting it to his or her own use, thus preventing the rightful owner from enjoying the benefits of the property. Of course, a thief stealing something from you is an act of theft and conversion. But what sort of act could be considered conversion and not theft?

Well, let’s say you are a construction equipment supplier and you have an earthmover that you leased to a company for use at a specific site for a predetermined time. If the party that leased the earthmover takes it from the site to use for a different project without your permission, that could be considered an act of conversion. This would be especially true if the earthmover was out of your control when you needed it for your own purposes.

It is important to understand that there are circumstances where the authorities will not file charges against a perpetrator of conversion because the property has been accounted for. However, you can file a civil suit for the damages you suffered due to not having access to your property.

If you have been denied the use of what is rightfully yours, you may be able to file a suit aimed at holding the offending party accountable. But you will need to demonstrate that your property was used without permission and that this act caused you to suffer an economic loss. An experienced business torts attorney could assess your case and help you determine if filing a civil suit is in your best interests.