Trespass to Chattels

Trespass to chattels, also known as trespass to goods or trespass to personal property, is a legal concept in tort law. It involves the intentional interference with another person's possession of personal property, which results in injury or harm to the owner. Trespass to chattels can apply to both tangible and intangible property. The key elements of trespass to chattels are:

Lack of consent: The interference with the property must be non-consensual. If the owner has given consent or authorised certain access to their property, a claim for trespass may not be valid unless the use exceeds the scope of that consent.

Actual harm: The interference must result in actual harm to the owner. The threshold for what constitutes actual harm can vary by jurisdiction. In some cases, damage or impaired functioning of the property may be required to establish a claim.

Intentionality: The interference must be intentional. The actor must perform the act with the purpose of using or intermeddling with the property, or with knowledge that such interference will likely occur as a result of the act. Knowledge that the action violates the possessory rights of another is not always necessary.

Traditionally, trespass to chattels primarily applied to tangible property, allowing owners to seek relief when someone interfered with their possession of personal property. However, the concept has been expanded to include intangible property, such as electronic communications or virtual property in online worlds.

In recent years, courts in the United States have recognised trespass to chattels in cases involving unauthorised use of long-distance telephone lines, unsolicited bulk email (spam), and unauthorised access to computer networks. The expansion of trespass to chattels has been driven by technological advancements and the need to protect individuals' interests in intangible property.

The injured party may seek various remedies for trespass to chattels, including monetary damages to compensate for any actual harm or loss suffered. Additionally, the court may grant injunctive relief to prevent further interference with the property or to order the return of the property to its rightful owner.
Back to blog

UOL Case Bank

Upon joining, you become a valuable UOL student and gain instant access to over 2,100 case summaries. UOL Case Bank is constantly expanding. Speed up your revision with us now.

Subscribe Now

Where are our students from?

Yale University
Council of Europe
Baker Mckenzie 
University of Chicago
Columbia University
New York University
University of Michigan 
INSEAD
University College London (UCL)
London School of Economics (LSE)
King’s College London (KCL)
University of London
University of Manchester
University of Zurich
University of York
Brandeis University
University of Exeter
University of Sheffield
Boston University
University of Washington
University of Leeds
University of Law
Royal Holloway, University of London 
Birkbeck, University of London
SOAS, University of London
University of Kent
University of Hull
Queen’s University Belfast
Toronto Metropolitan University
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
University of Buckingham

  • Criminal Practice

    Diagrams and Charts

    Our carefully designed diagrams and charts will guide you through complex legal issues.

  • Criminal Law

    Clear and Succinct Definitions

    Key concepts are concisely defined to help you understand legal topics quickly.

  • Property Law

    Statutory Provisions

    Statutory provisions are provided side by side with legal concepts to help you swiftly locate the relevant legislation.

  • Public Law

    Case Summaries

    We have summarised important cases for you so that you don't need to read long and boring cases.

  • Evidence

    Rules and Exceptions

    Rules and exceptions are clearly listed so that you know when a rule applies and when it doesn't.

  • Company Law

    Terminology

    Legal terms and key concepts are explained at the beginning of each chapter to help you learn efficiently.

  • Case Law

    Case law is provided side by side with legal concepts so that you know how legal principles and precedents were established.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Law Essay Guide

    You will learn essential law exam skills and essay writing techniques that are not taught in class.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Problem Question Guide

    We will show you how to answer problem questions step by step to achieve first-class results.

  • Conflict of Laws

    Structured Explanations

    Complex legal concepts are broken down into concise and digestible bullet point explanations.

  • Legal System and Method

    Legal Research

    You will learn legal research techniques with our study guide and become a proficient legal researcher.

  • Jurisprudence and Legal Theory

    Exam-focused

    All essential concepts, principles, and case law are included so that you can answer exam questions quickly.