Trespass to Chattels Law and Legal Definition

Trespass to chattels is a tort whereby one party intentionally interferes or intentionally intermeddles with another person's lawful possession of a chattel. The interference can be any physical contact with the chattel or by dispossession of the chattel by taking it, destroying it, or barring the owner's access to it. Trespass to chattels is actionable only if actual damage can be shown.

§ 217 of Restatement (Second) of Torts defines trespass to chattels as “intentionally… dispossessing another of the chattel, or using or intermeddling with a chattel in the possession of another.” Harm to personal property or diminution of its quality, condition or value as a result of a defendant’s use can also result in liability under § 218(b) of the Restatement.

§ 218 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts states further that: One who commits a trespass to a chattel is subject to liability to the possessor of the chattel if, but only if,

  • he dispossesses the other of the chattel, or
  • the chattel is impaired as to its condition, quality, or value or
  • the possessor is deprived of the use of the chattel for a substantial time, or
  • 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.