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If someone stole your belonging can you sue for not only the cost but sentimental value of the items?

Lynnwood, WA |

My half siblings have stolen all my belongings that have meant so much to me. Things that were given to me by my grandparents and my father who all has passed away. They have also stole gifts given to me by my mother and children. Things I have bought over the years. Some things are collectables and worth some money. But the most is sentimental value. I do have pictures of these items in my home. Can you sue for sentimental value? If I proved in court they did take my belongings what could happen to them? How would the judge punished them? Some of the collectables and jewelry are valued at over $20,000.00 I would rather have my belongings back than money.

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Attorney answers 3


You might want to look at RCW Title 7, the chapter called "Replevin". Replevin is norman French for "Give my my stuff back", and the alternative if the property is no longer available because it has been converted (stolen) is money in lieu of the unavailable property. TheReplevin statute also allows the prevailing plaintiff to request their reasonable attorney fees and costs of suit.

The case in WA that lays out how to calculate damages for the value of personal property is Sollenberger v. Cranwell. There is also a case called Bartell Drugs, which the Sollenberger case analyses in its holding. In a nutshell: If the personal property can be assigned a value by looking to see what the market says it is worth, then you do that. If the property cannot be assigned a market value because it is only of value to one person, then that person is fundementally able to say what the property is worth to them.

Judges in civil court don't punish people; they make defendants who did something wrong pay money to a plaintiff who prevails in their lawsuit. The law cannot make people have an epiphany and wake up and acknowledge they did something petty, mean, or stupid, it can only make them pay money for having done that. People have this fantasy that the Court will make the other side see how stupid they were, but the Court can't make people apologize or admit fault. The Court can only make them pay money. Hope this helps. Elizabeth Powell

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If someone steals "over $20,000.00" from you, what you should do is call the local police. The amount involved likely makes the criminal law charges to be at the felony level.

Unless the siblings still have the items or money to pay you, suing them may not get you anything. If they have nothing, there is nothing for you to get. If they have something that can be protected by bankruptcy, they file bankruptcy and no longer owe you.

You may be able to file petitions resulting in court orders that prohibit the siblings from contacting you. If they do violate the court orders, they likely would soon be sitting in jail.

You should review your specific facts with your attorney to see what legal options you may have.


Washington courts measure damages for loss of personal property in one of three ways: if the property has a market value, the measure of damages is the difference between the market value of the property after and before the damage; if the property has no market value, the measure of damages is the replacement cost of the property; and if the property has no market value and cannot be replaced, then the measure of damages is the intrinsic value to the owner.

You will need an attorney to figure out the details of your claims.