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Law School Case Brief

Sch. of Visual Arts v. Kuprewicz - 2004 NYLJ LEXIS 172

Rule:

The court may not assess the merits of the complaint or its factual allegations, but may only determine if, assuming the truth of the facts alleged, the complaint states the elements of a legally cognizable cause of action

Facts:

Plaintiffs, the School of Visual Arts (SVA), alleged that defendant employee posted false job listings on an internet website for the director's position and that the employee provided the director's school e-mail address to various pornographic websites, resulting in the receipt of large volumes of unwanted sexually explicit e-mails. Granting the employee's motion in part, the court held that the only viable cause of action was the school's claim for common law trespass to chattels because the school alleged that the "large volumes" of unsolicited job applications and pornographic e-mails depleted hard disk space and drained processing power of the school's computer system.

Issue:

Did plaintiff school plead a cause of action for common law trespass to chattels in its complaint against defendant employee?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Court concluded that the only viable cause of action pleaded in the complaint is SVA's claim for common law trespass to chattels. To establish a trespass to chattels, SVA must prove that Kuprewicz intentionally, and without justification or consent, physically interfered with the use and enjoyment of personal property in SVA's possession, and that SVA was harmed thereby.  Thus, one who intentionally interferes with another's chattel is liable only if there results in harm to the owner's materially valuable interest in the physical condition, quality, or value of the chattel, or if the owner is deprived of the use of the chattel for a substantial time. Furthermore, to sustain this cause of action, a defendant must act with the intention of interfering with the property or with knowledge that such interference is substantially certain to result. In its complaint, SVA alleges that Kuprewicz caused large volumes of unsolicited job applications and pornographic e-mails to be sent to SVA and to SVA’s human resource director by way of SVA's computer system, without their consent. The complaint further alleges that these unsolicited e-mails have depleted hard disk space, drained processing power, and adversely affected other system resources on SVA's computer system.  The Court concluded that accepting these factual allegations as true, SVA had sufficiently stated a cause of action for trespass to chattels, and had alleged facts constituting each element of this claim. 

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