Conversion rests neither in the knowledge nor the intent of the defendant, but upon the unwarranted interference by defendant with the dominion over the property of the plaintiff from which injury to the latter results. Therefore, neither good nor bad faith, neither care nor negligence, neither knowledge nor ignorance, are of the gist of the action. Negligence is not any necessary part of the case.
Plaintiff rented the basement of a building in order to store barrels of wine. The owner of the building subsequently sold the building to defendant, but plaintiff was not notified of the change in ownership as he lived out of town. Defendant testified that two individuals approached him and offered to buy some empty barrels that were in the basement. Defendant inspected the basement and found several broken barrels and some that appeared to be empty. Defendant sold the contents of the basement to the individuals, but mentioned if some of the barrels were not empty, the price would have to be renegotiated later. Plaintiff subsequently learned of the events and brought an action against defendant for conversion to recover damages for the barrels of wine sold. However, the trial court granted defendant a nonsuit and plaintiff appealed.
Is the unwitting sale of another's property sufficient to sustain the property owner's conversation action against the unwitting seller?
The Court held that defendant sold barrels that did not belong to him, whether or not they contained wine. Defendant exercised an unjustifiable and unwarranted dominion and control over plaintiff's property and his knowledge of the contents was immaterial.