PERSONAL PROPERTY: YOUR OPTIONS IF IT’S STOLEN.
Everyone owns personal property. Money, cars, electronics, furniture, animals, etc. Nearly everything except your house and the land that it’s built upon qualifies as personal property.
Occasionally this personal property is stolen or withheld by another individual. In this case, you should always advise the police. But you also have options beyond charging the individual with a crime. Civil remedies exist that can help you recover your property, and obtain damages for your lost property.
The first cause of action at your disposal is called “replevin.” A replevin lawsuit merely asks the court to enter an order returning your personal property. Replevin is a statutory remedy, meaning that it’s codified by the Illinois legislature.
Specifically, section 735 ILCS 5/19-101, et seq. of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure states when a replevin action is appropriate, the proper venue to maintain the action, and how to draft a replevin complaint.
Another remedy available to a victim of stolen personal property is a cause of action for “conversion.” As opposed to replevin, conversion can result in the return of your personal property, plus any damages that you suffered while the property was gone, and/or if the property can no longer be returned. The amount of damages are often established by the value of the personal property.
However, personal property with no market value does not necessarily limit your damages to $0. Illinois courts base the amount of damages to which a plaintiff is entitled on the value of the personal property to the plaintiff.
For example, if your pet dog is stolen and then dies, your damages are not limited simply because the dog may have been old and did not retain substantial market value. Your damages can be measured by the dog’s actual value to you. The court would likely consider veterinary bills and other expenses applied to the dog over its life in order to determine the dog’s personal worth.
Finally, some personal property is exchanged pursuant to a contract. The personal property may be loaned to an individual, but required to be returned after a specific period of time. If your personal property is not returned, you likely have a cause of action for breach of contract.
A well written contract will provide for damages in your favor, along with attorneys’ fees and court costs that you incur while attempting to recollect your personal property.
If you believe someone has stolen and is unlawfully withholding your personal property, local attorney Andrew Szocka provides thorough and speedy assistance in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430.