CACI No. 2101. Trespass to Chattels - Essential Factual Elements

Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2023 edition)

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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
2. [interfered with [name of plaintiff]’s use or possession of the [insert
item of personal property];]
2. [or]
2. [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.
New September 2003
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 anothers 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
“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. Bidders 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
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 others 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
22 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 225, Trespass, § 225.262 (Matthew

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