A and B are neighbors. On May 1, A asks
B, “Could I borrow your riding lawnmower to cut my grass this weekend?” B
replies, “Sure, just bring it back by next weekend.” B gives A the key to the
mower, whereupon A drives it to A’s garage. At this time, B’s mower is
well-maintained and in good working order. The following Saturday, May 4, A
uses B’s mower to mow A’s lawn. A does not immediately return the mower to B,
but leaves it parked in A’s garage.
On May 10, A decides to use the mower for
recreation. Specifically, part of A’s property is wooded, and A drives the
mower through the woods at high speed—over fallen logs, through mud, and among the
trees. A also decides to test the mower’s capabilities by attempting to mow a
stand of heavy brush at the edge of the woods. The mower is not designed to cut
anything thicker than grass; while trying to mow the brush, A hears several
loud and unusual noises coming from underneath the mower.
On June 15, B asks A to return the
mower, and A does so. Upon returning the mower, A states that he forgot to
bring it back until B asked about it. B immediately notices that the mower is
caked in mud, has several dents in the body, and has a flat rear tire. When B
attempts to operate the mower, B discovers that the transmission shifts
erratically, and that the shaft that turns the mower blades is bent, causing
the blades to wobble and to cut improperly. Assume that A’s use of the mower
caused all these problems.
B obtains an accurate repair estimate
from the local dealership where B purchased the mower. The repairs to the body,
tire, transmission, and blade shaft will cost a total of $950. Assume that
these repairs are needed to restore the mower to the condition it was in when A
first borrowed it. Assume further that the cost of the repairs is commercially
B purchased the mower new, two years
earlier, for $1,450. The same mower now costs $1,600 new.
- Does A’s conduct as a whole more likely constitute (a) trespass to chattel or (b) conversion? Explain, ignoring any potential defenses, but addressing the proper measure of damages.
If B sues A over the mower, and A asserts the defense of consent, is that defense likely to succeed? Explain.