If someone breaks another’s property and pays for a replacement, can they keep the broken item?

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If someone breaks another’s property and pays for a replacement, can they keep the broken item?

My son was involved in a fight with another student in that student’s dorm room. Both boys fell on the other boy’s laptop and broke it. Campus policewere called and my son agreed to pay for the laptop in order for the other boy not to press charges. We have agreed to pay the $400 replacement value and keep the broken laptop. The father of the other boy wants $400 and the broken laptop. Are we right to be able to keep the broken laptop after paying replacement cost for a new one? They said they would have police arrest my son if we don’t give them the $400 and the laptop.

Asked on September 24, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Oklahoma

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Your son is liable for the damage to the laptop.  Paying for the replacement cost of the laptop does not give your son the right to keep the broken laptop.  If you or your son kept the broken laptop, you or your son would be liable for conversion.

Conversion is the unauthorized assumption and exercise of the right of ownership over the personal propety of another to the exclusion of the owner's rights.  Conversion is any unauthorized act which deprives an owner of his property permanently or for an indefinite time.  Anyone who aids and abets another in keeping property from its rightful owner is liable for conversion.


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