Trover signifies finding. The remedy is called an action of trover; it is brought to recover the value of personal chattels, wrongfully converted by another to his own use; the form supposed that the defendant might have acquired the possession of the property lawfully, namely, by finding, but if he did not, by bringing the action the plaintiff waives the trespass; no damages can therefore be recovered for the taking, all must be for the conversion.
It will be proper to consider the subject with reference, 1. To the thing converted. 2. The plaintiff's right. 3. The nature of the injury. 4. The pleadings. 5. The verdict and judgment.
The property affected must be some personal chattel and it has been decided that trover lies for title deeds and for a copy of a record. Trover will be sustained for animals ferae naturae, reclaimed. Action upon the case of Trover and Conversion. But trover will not lie for personal property in the custody of the law, nor when the title to the property can be settled only by a peculiar jurisdiction; as, for example, property taken on the high seas, and claimed as lawful prize, because in such case, the courts of admiralty have exclusive jurisdiction. Nor will it lie where the property bailed has been lost by the bailee, or stolen from him, or been destroyed by accident or from negligence case is the proper remedy.
-2. The plaintiff must at the time of the conversion have had a property in the chattel either general or special he must also have had actual possession or right to immediate possession. The person who has the absolute or general property in a personal chattel may support this action, although he has never had possession, for it is a rule that the general property of personal chattels creates a constructive possession. One who has a special property, which consists in the lawful custody of goods with a right of detention against the general owner, may maintain trover.
There must have been a conversion, which may have been effected, 1st. By the wrongful taking of a personal chattel. 2d. By some other illegal assumption of ownership, or by illegally using or misusing it; or, 3d. By a wrongful detention.
The declaration should state that the plaintiff Was possessed of the goods (describing them) as of his own property, and that they came to the defendant's possession by finding; and the conversion should be properly averred, as that is the gist of the action. It is not indispensable to state the price or value of the thing converted. The usual plea is not guilty, which is the general issue.
The verdict should be for the damages sustained, and the measure of such damages is the value of the property at the time of the conversion, with interest. The judgment, when for the plaintiff, is that he recover his damages and costs when for the defendant, the judgment is that he recover his costs.