About two weeks ago, I was caught shoplifting at K-Mart in Illinois. An employee pulled me back into the store after I had walked out and took me into a room and told me that basically this was my "get out of jail free card." The cops were not called and he said this would not go on my criminal record. However, I recieved a letter from Palmer, Reifler and Associates saying that I have to pay them $250 even though I returned the lotion which was about $10 undamaged and unopened. I've heard cases where this company persists with payments even though you already paid the amount they asked for in the first place. I don't want to send my money to a scam and I would like some legal advice on what to do. Thank you.
Illinois Compiled Statutes Section 16A-7(a) provides that, “A person who commits the offense of retail theft as defined in Section 16A-3 paragraphs (a), (b), (c), or (h) of this Code, shall be civilly liable to the merchant of the merchandise in an amount consisting of actual damages equal to the full retail value of the merchandise as defined herein; plus an amount not less than $100 nor more than $1,000, plus attorney’s fees and costs.”
Further, Section 16A-7(c) states, “A conviction or a plea of guilty to the offense of retail theft is not a prerequisite to the bringing of a civil suit herein.” The decision to pursue claims similar to this one is made at the corporate level, not the store level. Store personnel have authority to decide whether to call the police or not. Once they document a theft, the case is sent to the corporate office for review of whether civil damages will be requested. In this case, the corporate office forwarded the file to our Firm to make the civil request.
In order to establish an injury giving rise to a right to recovery, the retailer need only show an invasion of a legal right (i.e. that you took possession of store merchandise with the intent to deprive our client of the benefit, use or full retail value of the item). If you received a letter from our office, it is our position and the position of our client that you had the necessary intent to trigger the liability threshold under the retail theft statute.
Upon a showing of theft, a retailer may recover actual damages, if any, and a civil penalty in the minimum amount of $100 and no more than $1,000. This civil penalty reimburses the retailer for loss of the stolen item for any amount of time and cost of business damages. In any theft incident, the retailer suffers actual and business damages in the form of lost employee time, security costs for equipment and personnel, and loss of the item for the period of time that the stolen item was not available for sale to the public. Additionally, general loss control devices such as electronic article surveillance (EAS) and video camera systems can be amortized annually over their respective life expectancy and then divided by the average number of shoplift apprehensions to get a per stop cost. These could also be argued as additional actual damages.
Even if there is no physical damage to the property and the property is returned to the retailer in merchantable condition, the retailer has nonetheless suffered a legally compensable injury in the form of an invasion of a legal right to ownership of and control over the property which was the object of the theft. This invasion of a legal right constitutes an injury and provides the owner of the property with a cause of action and the right to at least nominal damages. The injury does not disappear merely because the stolen property is returned to the legal owner.
The Law Offices of Palmer, Reifler & Associates, P.A. is a law firm based in Orlando, Florida which focuses on representing retailers for civil claims against individuals who have been caught stealing from the retail stores. In January of 2010, the Federal District Court reviewed and approved our practices, holding that our law firm was engaged in traditional practice of law and granted our Firm Summary Judgment on all counts in the action. See Kelly v. Palmer, Reifler, & Assoc., P.A., 681 F.Supp.2d 1356. Hopefully this makes it clear that while it may not be popular among those caught stealing merchandise from retailers, making statutory civil settlement offers is not a scam but is an acceptable way for retailers and those caught shoplifting to amicably resolve legitimate civil claims allowed by law.
We represent the retailer concerning the matter. You may wish to seek the advice of an attorney who would be willing to represent you for the civil matter. Otherwise, you may consider making an offer to see if the matter can be resolved amicably.
Legal disclaimer: Our â€œOf counselâ€ attorney Lori Shelby is licensed in Illinois but I am not. The information contained in this response is based on an assumption that you are an adult and contains information passed on from Ms. Shelby, but the information is not to be construed as legal advice but instead information that may help you understand the request that was made.