Under New York law, the tort of conversion is an old one and a simple one: It is “the unauthorized assumption and exercise of the right of ownership over goods belonging to another to the exclusion of the owner’s rights.”[FOOTNOTE 1] In other words, it is the civil version of what the criminal law calls theft, although conversion need not include the actual “manual taking” of the converted object.
For example, purporting to sell or otherwise publicly asserting ownership of an object one does not own constitutes conversion, as does destroying or barring access to another person’s property. Conversion is generally a straightforward tort that merely requires that the court determine whose claim of ownership is valid and award damages accordingly.
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