The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Trover \Tro"ver\ (tr[=o]"v[~e]r), n. [OF. trover, truver, to
find, F. trouver; probably originally, to invent or compose
(melodies), fr. (assumed) LL. tropare. See Troubadour,
Trope, and cf. Contrive, Reirieve, Trouveur.] (Law)
(a) The gaining possession of any goods, whether by finding
or by other means.
(b) An action to recover damages against one who found goods,
and would not deliver them to the owner on demand; an
action which lies in any case to recover the value of
goods wrongfully converted by another to his own use. In
this case the finding, though alleged, is an immaterial
fact; the injury lies in the conversion.
Bouvier's Law Dictionary, Revised 6th Ed (1856):
TROVER, remedies. Trover signifies finding. The remedy is called an action
of trover; it is brought to recover the value of personal chattels,
wrongfully converted by another to his own use; the form supposed that the
defendant might have acquired the possession of the property lawfully,
namely, by finding, but if he did not, by bringing the action the plaintiff
waives the trespass; no damages can therefore be recovered for the taking,
all must be for the conversion. 17 Pick. 1; Anthon, 156; 21 Pick. 559; 7
Monr. 209; 1 Metc. 172.
2. It will be proper to consider the subject with reference, 1. To the
thing converted. 2. The plaintiff's right. 3. The nature of the injury. 4.
The pleadings. 5. The verdict and judgment.
3.-1. The property affected must be some personal chattel; 3, Serg. &
Rawle, 513; and it has been decided that trover lies for title deeds; 2
Yeates, R. 537; and for a copy of a record. Hardr. 111. Vide 2 T. R. 788; 2
Salk. 654; 2 New Rep. 170; 3 Campb. 417; 3 Johns. R. 432; 10 Johns. R. 172;
12 Johns. R. 484; 6 Mass. R. 394; 17 Serg. & Rawle, 285; 2 Rawle, R. 241.
Trover will be sustained for animals ferae naturae, reclaimed. Hugh. Ab.
Action upon the case of Trover and Conversion, pl. 3. But trover will not
lie for personal property in the custody of the law, nor when the title to
the property can be settled only by a peculiar jurisdiction; as, for
example, property taken on the high seas, and claimed as lawful prize,
because in such case, the courts of admiralty have exclusive jurisdiction.
Cam. & N. 115, 143; but see 14 John. 273. Nor will it lie where the property
bailed has been lost by the bailee, or stolen from him, or been destroyed by
accident or from negligence case is the proper remedy. 2 Iredell, 98.
4.-2. The plaintiff must at the time of the conversion have had a
property in the chattel either general or special; 1 Yeates, R. 19; 3 S. &
R. 509; 15 John. R. 205, 349; 16 John. R. 159; 1 Humph. R. 199; he must also
have had actual possession or right to immediate possession. The person who
has the absolute or general property in a personal chattel may support this
action, although he has never had possession, for it is a rule that the
general property of personal chattels creates a constructive possession. 2
Saund. 47 a, note 1; Bac. Ab. Trover, C; 4 Rawle, R. 185. One who has a
special property, which consists in the lawful custody of goods with a right
of detention against the general owner, may maintain trover. Story, Bailm.
5.-3. There must have been a conversion, which may have been effected,
1st. By the wrongful taking of a personal chattel. 2d. By some other illegal
assumption of ownership, or by illegally using or misusing it; or, 3d. By a
wrongful detention., Vide Conversion.
6.-4. The declaration should state that the plaintiff Was possessed of
the goods (describing them) as of his own property, and that they came to
the defendant's possession by finding; and the conversion should be properly
averred, as that is the gist of the action. It is not indispensable to state
the price or value of the thing converted. 2 Wash. 192. See 2 Cowen, 592 13
S. & R. 99; 3 Watts, 333; 1 Blackf. 51; 1 South 211; 2 South. 509. Vide
form, 2 Chitty's Pl. 370, 371. The usual plea is not guilty, which is the
general issue. Bull. N. P. 48.
7.-5. The verdict should be for the damages sustained, and the measure
of such damages is the value of the property at the time of the conversion,
with interest. 17 Pick. 1; 7 Monr. 209; 1 Mete. 172; 8 Port. R. 191; 2 Hill,
132; 8 Dana, 192. The judgment, when for the plaintiff, is that he recover
his damages and costs; 1 Chit. Pl. 157; when for the defendant, the judgment
is that he recover his costs. Vide, generally, 1 Chit. Pl. 147 to 157 Chit.
Pr. Index, h.t.; Bac. Ab. h.t.; Dane's Ab. h.t. Vin. Ab. h.t.; Com. Dig.
Action upon the case upon trover; Id. Pleader, 2 I; Doct. Pl. 494; Amer.
Digests, h.t.; Bouv. Inst. Index, h.t. As to the evidence to be given in
actions of trover, see Rose. Civ. Ev. 395 to 412.