Courtesy Article

Part II: Intentional tort–Conversion and trespass as “action in trover”

An intentional tort arises from deliberate invasion of another person’s rights, causing injury without just cause or excuse. For instance, the new neighbor drives backward into the owner’s fence posts between the adjoining driveway and damages the existing fence on the first moving day into their new home. The owner of the damaged fence posts can sue the new neighbor for repeatedly driving into the owner’s fence posts with a van, a lawnmower, or deliberate carelessness.

Intentional torts include interference with a person’s freedom of movement, defamation of character (libel and slander), invasion of privacy, interference with property rights, misuse of the legal process, fraud, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Trespass is a tort, a civil wrong because it interferes with a person’s property rights. For instance, the new neighbor’s son jumps the fence adjoining the owner’s property repeatedly without permission. Or, the Lombard Police Department in Du Page County, Illinois allows intruders, strangers, terrorists, and criminal repeat offenders to jump the owner’s fence into the backyard, under approval of the Village of Lombard, Town Hall staff, and the Village Manager, Bill Lichter, President Bill Mueller, including Trustee for District 5 Ken Florey, and others, without the authorization of the Hung Family as owners of the real estate property.

Common law “tort” action features unreasonable interference with the interests of another. For instance, intentional infliction of emotional distress is a tort. Case-in-point, John Carpenter, the neighbor calls the Lombard Police Department on the Hung Family when the daughter arrives one evening, last summer 2006, and walks into the backyard—there was nothing wrong in the backyard, at the house, or with the daughter of the late Mr. Roberto Hung, J.D.

An injured person may sue anyone who commits a tort against him/her to collect damages—money to compensate for the wrong.

Trespass is an unlawful intrusion that interferes with someone else’s possession of property. A trespass gives the property owner the right to bring a civil lawsuit and collect money damages for the interference and for any harm caused. Some states in the U.S.A. have laws that make trespass a crime and prosecute illicit access entry into property with punitive fines, sanctions, and imprisonment. Generally, a trespass is committed on real property (real estate or land and everything that is attached to it), but a trespass can also be to personal property (all other forms of property) as well.

Criminal trespass is accomplished by violence or tends to be a “breach of peace”. Some statutes consider any unlawful entry on another person’s real estate property as a criminal act. When the trespass involves violence or injury to a person or property, it is always considered criminal, and penalties may be increased for more serious or malicious acts. Criminal trespass is prosecuted in the State of Illinois by punitive fines, sanctions or imprisonment or both.

The standard remedy in an action for trespass to chattels is a judgment for an amount equal to the value of loss or use of the property. Damages from a trespass claim are based on the harm caused to the owner’s property, rather than the general value of the chattel. Under common law, many acts can constitute both “conversion” and “trespass” as “action in trover”.

Conversion as an “action in trover” under English common law is an ancient, historical form of legal action to recover possession of personal property, and its practice to settle disputes, contests, and arguments, has developed our modern sense and interpretation in the application of common law in the 21st century and beyond.

Action in trover is the technical name for a lawsuit to recover damages incurred for a wrongdoer’s “conversion” (wrongful taking, misuse, abuse, alteration or destruction) of personal property belonging to someone else. In trover actions, the measure of damages is normally in proportion to the value of the property at the time of conversion.

Legal “action in trover” is a remedy for conversion or the wrongful appropriation of the owner’s personal property. During the course of the 16th century, “action in trover” developed as a special form of legal action in a case.

Trover damages are measured in proportion to the market value of the property, plus compensation for deprivation of use, and compensation for other losses naturally and proximately caused by the wrongful taking of another’s property. The owner can also recover interest that would have been earned by the money value of the object and any expenses incurred in attempting to recover the property.

Another example of common law is “negligence per se”, that is to say behavioral conduct which is evidence of an unreasonable action (or failure to act) that causes injury to a person or damages to his/her property. Negligence per se, as carelessness in itself, is behavior that falls below the standards set by law for protecting others against risk or harm. As a result of “negligence per se”, anyone who is injured, or whose property is damaged because of someone else’s negligent act or failure to act, is entitled to bring a civil lawsuit against the wrongdoer, for an “action in trover”.

In itself, negligence is a state of mind involving carelessness, forgetfulness, inattentiveness, refusal to perform duties and obligations required by law and professional standards.

In negligence law, a person has an obligation and duty to exercise reasonable care for the physical safety and for the property of others people.

Negligence per se involves “misfeasance” which is to say, the improper doing of an act, and “nonfeasance”, that is to say, the failure to perform the required duty. In cases involving “imputed negligence”, the first person in charge may have a duty to see that the second person in force exercises care in regard to any third party or property. Thus, “imputed negligence” falls upon the first person when the second person fails to perform the duty of care for the third person, “vicariously”. In the same way, “respondeat superior”, in Latin, illustrates a principle of law that holds an employer liable and responsible for anything that an employee does during the course of employment. Case-in-point, the Village of Lombard is responsible for all its employees’ actions and non-actions, at all times.

When a person suffers harm because of someone else’s negligence, the same person can sue the negligent person and make him or her pay for the harm, damages and/or losses caused. Given that the negligent person owed the injured party a duty to use care; that he/she violated that duty by failing to act according to the required standard of care; and that the party incurred injury or that property was damaged as the result of the negligent person.

In the doctrine of “negligence per se”, the violations of statutes by the negligent person creates a case for legal action in itself, by default. In order for this doctrine (of negligence per se) to operate, the statute which has been violated must have been designed to prevent the type of injury or damaged suffered by a victim of crime, abused by another person due to “negligence per se”.

Case-in-point, in the legal action for Village of Lombard v. Hung, et al., the Plaintiff is subject to “negligence per se” for the violations of Illinois statutes pursuant to consumer service fraud, breach of the Fair Housing agreement contract, and Lombard real estate liability for the sale of old houses in Du Page County, Illinois, USA.

Since 1993, in the Village of Lombard, the Hung Family real estate property and all family members, have all been injured, disabled, and damaged due to the Village of Lombard’s failure to provide the duty of care, according to the required standard of care; and the Hung Family members and real estate property have all been victims of crime as a result of “negligence per se” by default in the Village of Lombard, Du Page County, Illinois, USA.

English common law is based on legal court precedents. Each legal cause of action is decided by a judge to establish a precedent which may be used as a guide for other judges to make subsequent decisions. Thus common law is active, dynamic, functional, and constantly evolving in time, upon legal precedents.

Traditionally, English common law was unwritten, “lex non scripta”—not written as a body of law; however, nowadays, there are extensive, historical, and contemporary compilations of the English common law for the 21st century and beyond.

Common law follows natural reason, logic, and man’s sense of justice, equity, and fairness. It is adopted by men and women to regulate legal behavior in social settings, disputes, contests, and arguments. Common law action is a civil lawsuit between opposing parties over a real legal issue in which the relief (help) requested as remedy is generally money granted as an award for damages.

Common law developed after the French Norman Conquest in 1066 A.D. as the law common to the whole of England, rather than the local law used by the Saxons, the Angles, the Jutes, and the Celts. As the court system became established later under King Henry II, and judges decisions became recorded in law reports, the doctrine of precedents developed[1].

Historically, common law is a system of laws that prevails in England and in all countries colonized by Great Britain and the British Commonwealth. The concept of “common law” is derived from the medieval theory that the law is administered by the King’s Court which represented “the custom commonly used throughout the realm”, in contrast to the custom of local jurisdiction that was applied in local or manorial courts. According to Sir John Davies (1`569-1626), “it was nothing else but the Common Custome of the Realm” quoted in Preface to Reports, (1612). Later, Sir John Fortescue declared that the “realm has been continuously ruled by the same customs as it is now”, as noted “In Praise of the Laws of England”, c. 1470, in the original title, “De Laudibus Legum Angliae” in which the English Chancellor of the High Court of England discussed royal and political control, “sovereignty”, in response to the problem of tyranny, as presented by St. Thomas Aquina and Ptolemy of Lucca. Thomas Aquina exposed the idea of “De Regimine Principum” among the highest goals of medieval political thought—Sir John Fortescue sustained that while England was a “dominium politicum regale”, France, its secular opponent, represented a simple “dominium regale”. As the most important exponent of English political thought in the 15th century, Sir John Fortescue expressed simply that in contract to France, in England, the King was subject to the same right that the monarch approved with the two Chambers of Parliament, whose consensus was also necessary in order to establish taxes (11)—Sir John Fortescue, “De Laudibus Legum Angliae” as “In Praise for the Laws of England”, Chapters IX and XVIII[2].

English common law developed from legal usage within three (3) English courts as follow: the King’s Bench, Exchequer, and the Court of Common Pleas. The King’s Bench originally litigated the crown’s business (including criminal matters and had jurisdiction to correct errors from other courts of record). The Exchequer of Pleas, involved primarily revenue matters. Then, in a narrower sense, the common law was the body of law administered in Westminster Hall by the twelve (12) judges of the three superior courts of law. These were the Common Pleas, whose position as the prime court of civil suits had been secured by the Magna Carta (1215) and which continued to attract most civil litigation until the 18th century. The common law administered in these three (3) courts contrasted with “equity” as practiced primarily in the Court of Chancery. The Court of Chancery was originally designated as a “Court of Conscience”, concerned with securing justice in individual cases, rather than following strict rules[3].

In “Roots,” the role of the sheriff is presented as “the oldest continuing, non-military, law enforcement entity in the history of England”. In the 9th century, “shires” were municipal and administrative kingdoms divided by the King of England and assigned to trusted representatives. The shire representative appointed by the King protected his interest and the people of his particular land territory. In medieval English, the appointed trustees were called “reeves” as “guardians of the shire”. Historical usage of the words “shire-reeve” together, derived the contemporary term for the concept of “sheriff”, as we know their office of service today, before and after the French Norman invasion of England in 1066 A.D. In the past, the sheriff was responsible for keeping the peace, collecting taxes, maintaining jails, arresting fugitives, maintaining lists of wanted criminals, serving orders and writs for the King’s Court.

According to DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott, “the responsibilities of the office of the sheriff in England ebbed and flowed, depending on the mood and needs of kings and government”. The Magna Carta (1215) signed by King John restricted and circumscribed the responsibilities and duties of the sheriff in his times.

In the British Commonwealth, as well as in America, the concept of the sheriff has been adopted with the common law, through time, space, and physical presence. In the American colonies settled by the British since 1607 A.D., sheriffs were also appointed following the role model of English government. The first sheriff in the United States of America has been noted to be Captain William Stone, appointed in 1634 for the Shire of Northampton in the colony of Virginia. The first elected sheriff was William Waters in 1652 for the same shire. The word “shire” was used in many of the Commonwealth colonies, before the word “county” replaced its usage[4].

Under English common law, notaries public also provide another timeless office of service for the legal court system and the community at large. Since the Roman Republic, in the past, notaries public have drawn important documents and records writing for business and employment. During the times of the Roman Empire, notaries public were known under various titles in Latin, such as “scriba”, “cursor”, tabularius”, “tabelio”, “exceptor”, “actuaries”, and “notarius”, according to the historical times in which they lived and the duties performed. Notaries public are subject to regulation by law since the later days in Ancient Rome. Some of the notarial acts have been granted degrees of authenticity to be designated as public instruments and were required to be kept as records to be deposited in public archives for the government[5].

Notaries public are commissioned by the State of Illinois, Office of the Secretary of State Jesse White. Their term of office is four (4) years from the time of commission.

Throughout history, in the early past, notaries public were well known functionaries during the times of the great Charlemagne who vested notarial acts by scribes with public authority and provided notaries public appointments by his deputies in every locality in their territories. Charlemagne provided that each bishop, abbot, and count should have a notary public.

In England, appointed notaries public acted as “conveyancers”, before the French Norman Conquest in 1066 A.D., as shown by the fact that a grant of lands and manors was made by King Edward the Confessor, to the Abbot of Westminster by a charter written and attested by a notary public. In Great Britain, notaries public are authorized to administer oaths, and this official power is vested by statute.

The laws of the United States of America, under the Constitution and under God is similar, for notaries public and is often declared by the statutes of the various states and other jurisdictions.

It is my opinion that common law is established in the history of languages with the legal tradition of the past, interpreted in the present as precedents, to be preset in the future and beyond…the 21st century.

English common law is based on timeless, immemorial customs and legal practices founded on natural reason, persuasion, and logic. According to Edward Coke, “reason is the life of the law, nay, the common law itself is nothing else but reason”—from the First Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England or A Commentary upon Littleton by Edward Coke. Edited by Francis Hargrave and Charles Butler, (London, 1794).

Common law, within the context of its core principles, is perceived to be “timeless”. It is derived from legal authority “throughout the kingdom” as stated by Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780), in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, (1765-1769).

After the Civil War, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote a book called, “The Common Law” (1881), in order to recognize that law evolved and that it was a byproduct/ consequence of historical events, rather than simply the result of reason. According to Oliver Wendell Holmes, “a moment’s insight is a life’s experience”. Holmes’ book “The Common Law” focuses on experience rather than logic and has been compared as a legal analog to Charles Darwin’s “Origin of the Species” which discusses biological processes, rather than divine ones. Oliver Wendell Holmes helped to popularize the understanding that law evolves…through time, space, physical presence, and beyond the 21st century.

After the Second World War, there was a growing interest in the use of the common law as a tool for social reform. While some academics spoke of the legal process—the belief that there were methods of common law and statutory interpretation that were independent of politics existed—other academics and jurists on both ends of the political spectrum urged judges to use their common law power to remake the law on its foundations. Where once judges had wielded the law to limit corporate liability, some began to expand “tort” law to facilitate recovery of damages and losses for injured parties in hazardous conditions, as victims of crime, to dangerous drugs to professional malpractice.

Now in the 21st century, Modern America continues to practice “common law” as a byproduct of generations of judicial decisions and during the course of time and beyond. Common law is understood to be the result of judge-made innovations, interpretation, application, and perception of the circumstances involved in judicial case review. However, a more conservative conception of the common law has been re-emerging in the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts and fellow jurists, scholars, and colleagues during 2007. During the first term of office appointed by President George W. Bush, Chief Justice John G. Roberts moved the U.S. Supreme Court toward a new conservative direction within the context of President Bush’s “faith-based initiative”.[6]

Since 1607, and for the last 400 years, judges still grapple and deliberate with new legal actions and struggle to apply precedents. Modern day judges are still using, applying, and interpreting the English common law system to date as a legal foundation to establish law practices for justice, equity, and fairness under the Constitution of the United States, and under God, throughout the 21st century and beyond…in the spirit of the times. Zeitgeist!

From the Law Library of my father, Mr. Roberto Hung, J.D.
You and the Law. A Practical Guide to Everyday Law and How It Affects You and Your Family. Advisory Editor Henry V. Poor, Associate Dean of Yale University Law School, 1967-1972. Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., New York, 1971.

Family Legal Guide. A Complete Encyclopedia of Law for the Layman. Reader’s Digest Association, New York, 1971.

Periodical, ‘The Week’, May 18, 2007 on the “400th Anniversary of Jamestowne, Virginia”.

Periodical,” The Week”. July 6-13, 2007. News. Main Stories. “The Roberts Court Chars a new direction”.

Periodical, Newsweek. Ideas, ‘Ties of Blood and History: Sir Winston Churchill, February 26, 2007.

McCrum, Robert et al. The Story of English. BBC Public Television Series.

The Illinois Sheriff, Spring 2005. ‘Roots. A Historical Perspective of the Office of the Sheriff’. DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott.

Fortescue, John (1394-1477). De Laudibus Legum Angliae. In Praise of the Laws of England.

John Marshal School of Law in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Canada‘s Court System, Department of Justice Publication.

American Heritage Dictionary.

Village of Lombard, et al. vs. Hung et al., Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Court, Chancery Division, 505 North County Farm Road, Wheaton, IL 60187, County of Du Page, State of Illinois, United States of America.

Churchill, Winston. A History of the English-Speaking Peoples.

Roberts, Andrew. A History of the English-Speaking Peoples since 1901.

QPB Dictionary of Ideas. Quality Paperback Book Club. (New York: Helicon Publishing Ltd., 1995 in the United Kingdom under the title The Hutchinson Dictionary of Ideas), page 108, Common Law.

Cambridge text in the History of Political Thought, CUP, 1997. Law: Sovereignty in the British Doctrine (From Bracton to Dicey). Notes by Joaquin Varela Suanzes in notes.html

Fortescue, John. The Governance of England: Otherwise called the Difference between an Absolute and Limited Monarchy. Editor Charles Plummer. London: Oxford University Press, 1885. Reprinted 1999 by the Law Book Exchange, Ltd.

Anderson’s Manual for Notaries Public. Fifth Edition. Gilmer, Wesley, Jr., B.A., M.S.L.S., J.D. W.H. Anderson Company. Cincinnati, 1966.

Richard, Tom, PhD. Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, University of Wisconsin, USA.

Hung, Gardenia C., M.A., B.A., Communications, Languages & Culture, Inc., 502 S. Westmore-Meyers Road, Lombard IL 60148-3028 USA. Email:

[1] QPB Dictionary of Ideas. Quality Paperback Book Club. (New York: Helicon Publishing Ltd., 1995 in the United Kingdom under the title The Hutchinson Dictionary of Ideas), page 108, Common Law.

[2] Cambridge text in the History of Political Thought, CUP, 1997. Law: Sovereignty in the British Doctrine (From Bracton to Dicey). Notes by Joaquin Varela Suanzes in notes.html

Fortescue, John. The Governance of England: Otherwise called the Difference between an Absolute and Limited Monarchy. Editor Charles Plummer. London: Oxford University Press, 1885. Reprinted 1999 by the Law Book Exchange, Ltd.

[4] The Illinois Sheriff. Spring 2005. A magazine published by the Illinois Sheriff Association. “Roots. A Historical Perspective of the Office of the Sheriff”. By DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott. Pages 6-7.

[5] Anderson’s Manual for Notaries Public. Fifth Edition. Gilmer, Wesley, Jr., B.A., M.S.L.S., J.D. W.H. Anderson Company. Cincinnati, 1966. Chapter 1, Page 2.

[6] The Week. July 6-13, 2007. News. Main Stories. “The Roberts Court Charts a new direction”.