Statutory Conversion under Michigan Law

Author: LegalEase Solutions 

The principle of conversion in Michigan law is governed by MCLA 600.2919a

of Michigan Conversion Statute. MCLA 600.2919a reads as follows:

  • 600.2919a.    Recovery of damages, costs, and attorney’s fees by person damaged; remedy cumulative.

    Sec. 2919a. (1) A person damaged as a result of  either or both of the following may recover 3 times the amount of actual damages sustained, plus costs and reasonable attorney fees:
    (a) Another person’s stealing or embezzling property or converting property to the other person’s own use.
    (b) Another  person’s buying, receiving,  possessing, concealing,  or aiding in the concealment of stolen, embezzled, or converted property when the person buying, receiving,  possessing, concealing, or aiding in the concealment of stolen, embezzled, or converted property knew that the property was stolen, embezzled, or converted .
    (2) The remedy provided by this section is  in addition to any other right or remedy the person may have at law or otherwise.

  An  amendment in June 16, 2005 revised this section from one which read:

“A person damaged as a result of another person’s buying, receiving, or aiding in the concealment of any stolen, embezzled, or converted property when the person buying, receiving, or aiding in the concealment of any stolen, embezzled, or converted property knew that the property was stolen, embezzled, or converted may recover 3 times the amount of actual damages sustained, plus costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. This remedy shall be in addition to any other right or remedy the person may have at law or otherwise.”

Prior to the amendment statutory conversion, consisted of knowingly buying, receiving, or aiding in the concealment of any stolen, embezzled, or converted property under Mich. Comp. Laws §  600.2919a. But statutory conversion was not designed to provide a remedy against the individual who has actually stolen, embezzled, or converted the property.

In Campbell v Sullins, 257 Mich. App. 179, 191-192 (2003), the Court held:

Statutory conversion . . . consists of knowingly ‘buying, receiving, or aiding in the concealment of any stolen, embezzled, or converted property.’ MCL 600.2919a.”  Head v Phillips Camper Sales & Rental, Inc, 234 Mich. App. 94, 111; 593 N.W.2d 595 (1999). The clear language of the statute indicates that “the statute is not designed to provide a remedy against the individual who has actually stolen, embezzled, or converted the property.” Marshall Lasser, PC v George, 252 Mich. App. 104, 112; 651 N.W.2d 158 (2002). Rather, “the actions proscribed–buying receiving, or aiding in the concealment–all occur after the property has been stolen, embezzled, or converted by the principal.” Id. “If the Legislature had meant for the statute to also apply to the thief as well as someone who aids him, it could have written the statute to include the thief’s action in possessing or concealing the property.”  Id.

In Lasser, P.C..v. Georg 252 Mich App 104 at 112 (2002),  the Court, interpreting the old version of the statute held  :

By its clear language, section 2919a does not apply. The actions proscribed–buying, receiving, or aiding in the concealment–all occur after the property has been stolen, embezzled, or converted by the principal. In other words, the statute is not designed to provide a remedy against the individual who has actually stolen,  embezzled, or converted the property. Indeed, the statute carefully compartmentalizes the actions of those assisting and the actions of the principal.

Therefore before the amendment, § 600.2919a and case precedent indicated that statutory conversion is not designed to provide a remedy against the individual who has actually stolen, embezzled, or converted the property.  The Court in Lasser, supra, prophetically stated,  “If the Legislature had meant for the statute to also apply to the thief as well as someone who aids him, it could have written the statute to include the thief’s action in possessing or concealing the property”.  Id.  This is exactly what the Michigan legislature did in June and amended the statute to apply to the person guilty of conversion as well as one who aids him.

After the recent amendment of June, 2005 the scope of the section has been expanded and a bare reading of the section will indicate that the Plaintiff will have a cause of action under the statute if the Defendant himself actually stole, embezzled, or converted the property.