An action to recover personal property wrongly detained or taken away is referred to as claim and delivery or replevin. In this action, no money damages are claimed; instead the plaintiff seeks the return of the property wrongly detained or taken away.
The most common example of a replevin action would be where two parties have the right of possession but one party has greater rights than the other. Replevin actions will also lie if a lawfully withheld property that ought to have been released is not released.
Here are some examples of cases where a replevin action would lie:
- A creditor attempting to repossess the tangible item from a debtor after the debtor has defaulted on a secured loan
- A tenant suing the landlord seeking return of the tenant’s property that was withheld by the landlord because the tenant failed to pay the rent
Laws on Replevin
Historically, replevin actions were part of common law but these days replevin actions are regulated by the civil procedure statutes of each state.
The first step in a replevin action is to file a lawsuit explaining why the person has a claim in a property. Generally, the sheriff will seize the property and hand it over to the person claiming right to the property until the replevin action is decided by the court. In many states, the person making a claim will be permitted to recover the property before a decision in the action by making a cash deposit or filing a bond with the court. If the court decides against him or her, he or she must return the property. The cash deposit or bond is required to ensure the return of the property in case of an adverse verdict.
If the party who has wrongfully detained or withheld the property has destroyed or disposed off the property, he or she can be charged with contempt of court or ordered to pay damages and cost to the person claiming a right in the property.
The exact rules and procedures followed in a replevin action vary from state to state and is governed by the state law. Generally, a person can file a replevin action in any of the following places:
- Where the property in question is situated
- Where the underlying contract was signed
- Where the person holding the property is located
- Where the dispute arose
A replevin lawsuit must contain the following:
- Detailed description of the property so as to enable a positive identification of the property
- Details of the value and location of the property
The person filing the application must also make a statement that he or she has the right of possession or is the rightful owner, that the property is wrongfully detained for reasons other than tax default, assessment, or fine pursuant to the law.