Can I sue my mother in law for keeping our furniture from us?

Long story short we don’t get along. About 8 months
ago when we were getting along we had stored
some couches, a bedroom set and personal
belongings in her basement. We’re currently moving
to a house that can fit all of our belongings and are
wanting to get them back. Hasn’t answered our texts
so finally threatened a sheriff on her. Sheriff called
her and she said there is no furniture that belongs to
us at her house. Which means we can’t even go over
there with a sheriff since there isn’t anything of ours
over there. She’s either lying to the sheriff or she
really did get rid of our stuff What should I do??
Can I sue her if she really got rid of our belongings
without our concent? Should I take her to civil court?
I’m in Virginia btw

Asked on March 30, 2016 under Business Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes, if you believe that she has taken or disposed of your belongings, you can sue her for its value. To win, you'd need to prove in court by a "preponderance of the evidence" (or that it is more likely than not), by using credible testimony and any documentary evidence (e.g. do you have texts or emails from her acknowledging the furniture? do you have receipts for any of the items, which you'd be unlikely to have unless you'd bought them? etc.) that she took or disposed of your belongings. if the value of the items is less than the maximum for your small claims court, suing in small claims court, acting as your own attorney ("pro se") is a very good option.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.