Summary of United States v. Arora (1994) Pg. 736, 860 F. Supp. 1091
Parties: Plaintiff – United States
Defendant – Arora
Court: Federal District Court, Maryland (1994)
Facts: 1. US accuses Arora tampered and destroyed cells (Alpha I-4) in a research project at the National Institute of Health.
2. The US claims the Arora interfered with Sei’s project, and Arora’s actions resulted in the destruction of the cells.
3. Arora denies destroying the cells, and says the US sustained no damages as a result of the cell deaths.
Posture: See TC’s holding and judgment.
Issue: Did Dr. Arora commit a conversion or trespass? If so, how were damages assessed?
Judgment: TC rules in favor of the US. Arora did commit conversion, and should pay damages.
Holding: It is determined that the US owned the cells. Arora only had a short time with the cells, but he had full control of the cells. He interfered with Sei’s right to control the cells, and with no good faith, destroyed the cells. It is unquestionable that Arora committed conversion.
Concerning damages, Arora is responsible for paying damages that are not speculative such as the potential market value of the cells. Therefore, Arora must pay for the equipment used to create and grow the cells, and the assistant lab technicians time that cultured the cells,
Relevant Rule: One who commits a trespass to a chattel is subject to liability to the possessor of the chattel if, but only if,
(a) he dispossesses the other of the chattel, or
(b) the chattel is impaired as to its condition, quality, or value, or
(c) the possessor is deprived of the use of the chattel for a substantial time, or
(d) bodily harm is caused to the possessor, or harm is caused to some person or thing in which the possessor has a legally protected interest.
(Restatement Second of Torts §218).
Thought: 6 elements must be determined in deciding whether the more serious charge of conversion exists over the less serious charge of trespass.
A. the extent and duration of the actor’s exercise of dominion or control;
B. the actor’s intent to assert a right in fact inconsistent with the other’s right of control;
C. the actor’s good faith;
D. the extent and duration of the resulting interference with the other’s right of control;
E. the harm done to the chattel;
F. the inconvenience and expense caused to the other.
(Restatement Second of Torts §222A(2))
Damages are determined as follows:
Value of the property + interest from the time of conversion, at the time and place of the conversion to the time of judgment.
Bottom line: whatever damages accomplishes the general objective of indemnity under the particular circumstances.
Damages can be greater than the market value of the chattel that was affected by trespass or conversion if it is adequate to compensate the losses of the owner. However; the claimed damages can’t be so speculative as to create an injustice to the actor of trespass or conversion.