To establish a claim for conversion of personal property, a plaintiff must prove that (1) he owned or had legal possession of the property or entitlement to possession; (2) a defendant unlawfully and without authorization assumed and exercised dominion and control over the property to the exclusion of, or inconsistent with, the plaintiff's rights as an owner; (3) the plaintiff demanded return of the property; and (4) the defendant refused to return the property.
At trial for a conversion claim, the testimony established that appellee was attempting to get the polyurethane machine in working order, that appellee had purchased parts for the machine, that appellee had installed the parts on the machine, and that appellant thereafter moved the trailer in which the machine was mounted. Appellee testified that he had called appellant numerous times, attempting to retrieve the parts, but appellant did not answer; the one time that appellant answered, he refused appellee's request. The trial court signed a judgment for appellee on his conversion claim in the amount of $5,419.46, which included $4,561.52 in damages plus $857.94 in prejudgment interest. The case was appealed.
Was the evidence sufficient to support the trial court's judgment that defendant's conduct had amounted to a conversion?
Viewing the evidence favorable to the trial court's findings and disregarding the evidence to the contrary because a reasonable factfinder could do so based on a credibility determination, the Court held that the evidence was legally sufficient to support the trial court's findings supporting each element of conversion of appellee's property by appellant. Further, considering and weighing all of the evidence in the record pertinent to that finding, including that appellant's delay in authorizing the retrieval of the property that had the effect of destroying the parts, the evidence was factually sufficient to support the trial court's finding of conversion of appellee's property by appellant.