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Replevin, also known as "claim and delivery," is an action to recover personal property that was wrongfully taken or detained. Unlike other forms of legal recovery, replevin seeks the return of the actual thing itself, as opposed to monetary damages (the more commonly sought-after remedy).

This article provides a general overview of replevin.

Examples of Replevin

Replevin can apply in a variety of situations, including situations where two parties have rights to possession of property, but one party may have greater rights to the property. It may also apply in situations where property that was lawfully withheld but should have been later released to a person, yet was not.

Specific examples may include:

  • A creditor seeking to recover tangible items from a debtor who has defaulted on a secured loan, such as repossessing a borrower's car after missed payments
  • A renter who sues a landlord for the return of property that was withheld in return for back pay
  • A family member seeking the return of property being withheld by an administrator of an estate
  • A private party seeking the return to the government of a public record (such as a marriage license)
  • A business seeking the return of property that was found or "stolen," but which is essential to the operation of the business

Replevin Laws

Replevin actions were historically part of a state's common laws, but now generally fall under a state's civil procedure statutes. Replevin actions are typically initiated when a person serves papers showing why he or she has a claim in the property -- in which case a sheriff seizes the property and delivers it to the person claiming rights to it until a hearing is held.

Most states allow a person to recover the personal property before a judgment is rendered by the court by first filing a cash deposit or bond with the court to ensure the return of the property to the party in the event they lose. In some states, a defendant who destroys or disposes of the property may be charged with contempt of court and otherwise ordered to pay money damages and associated costs to the other party.

State laws generally outline the rules, requirements, and procedures to recover property that has been wrongfully withheld. For example, replevin actions must be brought in a court that has the legal authority to hear the case based on the value of the property sought to be recovered. In addition, generally a person may bring a replevin action in any one of the following locations:

  • The county where the property sought is located
  • The place where the contract was signed
  • The place where the defendant resides
  • The place where the "cause of action" or dispute occurred

Moreover, before recovering under a replevin action, a person must show the following to a court clerk:

  • A detailed description of the property is sufficient to make a positive identification of the property
  • Statement or belief of the value of the property
  • Statement or belief of the location of the property
  • Statement that he is the rightful owner of the claimed property or is entitled to possession of it
  • Statement that the property is wrongfully detained
  • Statement that the property has not been taken for a tax, assessment, or fine pursuant to the law

Questions About Replevin? Talk to a Lawyer

Replevin probably sounds like an archaic and confusing kind of lawsuit. But if after reading this article, you believe you might have a valid claim, you should speak with a local litigation attorney right away to preserve your rights or reclaim your personal property.

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