The N.Y. Court of Appeals on Thursday recognized for the first time that a common-law cause of action of conversion applies to electronic documents in the state.

Noting that the determination was being made in a decision written on computers and disseminated to judges via e-mail, Judge Victoria A. Graffeo said the court’s ruling merely acknowledges that computers and digital information have become “ubiquitous.” “We cannot conceive of any reason in law or logic why this process of virtual creation should be treated any differently from production by pen on paper or quill on parchment,” she wrote in the 7-0 ruling. “A document stored on a computer hard drive has the same value as a paper document kept in a file cabinet.” The question of extending conversion claims to electronic data came to the court via a certified question from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Thyroff v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, No. 41.

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