A claim for trespass to chattels may be applicable if the person who nonconsensually posted the victim’s private, intimate images obtained the material by trespassing into the victim’s personal property (such as the victim’s computer or cell phone).
Elements of a Claim
“Trespass to chattels occurs when a person intentionally uses or intermeddles with a chattel in possession of another. A person will be liable to the possessor of the chattel 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 some person or thing in which the possessor has a legally protected interest.’”1
Research is ongoing.
While a Nevada district court has recognized the illegal downloading of software as an actionable trespass to chattels, it is not clear whether trespass to chattels would also apply to the taking or use of a plaintiff’s personal computer data. In Oracle v. Rimini St., Inc., Plaintiffs sued Defendants for trespass to chattels for “illegally download[ing] [Plaintiff’s] software and support materials.”2 The court found that “Plaintiffs…sufficiently asserted a cause of action for trespass to chattels because they alleged facts indicating that Defendants’ conduct, including use of search crawlers, impaired the ability of [Plaintiff] Oracle America’s network systems and information databases to function properly.”3
As in the case of conversion, the tangibility of electronically stored images may also be an issue in a trespass to chattels action. For a further discussion on tangibility as it relates to conversion and trespass to chattels, see the “Practice Pointers” section under Nevada – Conversion.