Can you convert paper and toner?

Palm Beach Golf Ctr.-Boca, Inc. v. John G. Sarris, D.D.S., P.A., No. 13-14013 (11th Cir. Oct. 30, 2014).

Conversion is the “wrongful exercise or assumption of authority over another’s goods, depriving him of possession, permanently or for an indefinite time.” Can you sue me for conversion if I send you junk faxes without your consent? Have I wrongfully exercised authority over your fax paper and toner, thus depriving you of your possession of them? 

A majority of this Eleventh Circuit panel, applying Florida law, decides that you can sue somebody for conversion for sending you junk faxes. District Judge Hinkle, dissenting, likens an unsolicited fax to an unsolicited phone call. You can’t sue an unwanted telemarketer for conversion if he calls you and ties up your phone line, so you shouldn’t be able to sue a junk faxer for conversion, either. (I trust you see the problem with this analogy.) Anyway, he argues, de minimis non curat lex—“the law doesn’t care about trifles”—and here, at least, he may have a point.