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Palmer, Reifler & Associates threatening letters. Legal????

Sarasota, FL |

Our son, (age 19) was caught trying to shoptlift a $6.00 hacksaw at Home Depot. He was arrested and charged. He was arrested at a later date for another burglary. He spent 30 days in county Jail. He is a prescription drug addict presently incarcerated in a residential treatment program with another 18 months of incarceration to follow that. He is indigent and was defended by a public defender at his trial. We have received letters at our home as Home Depot had our address listed as his home address. I opened them recently and found 3 letters from Palmer, Reifler and Associates threatening to file a law suit on behalf of Home Depot unless payment was made. The first letter demanded $200.00 and the second and third letters demanded an increasing amt each time with the final amt being $475.00. I see through an internet search that this Law office has a Class action law suit filed against them in Miami right now claiming violation of the Federal RICO 18 U S C. Is this demand made in these letters legal? How can they collect money from someone who is presently incarcerated. What should our son do regarding these letters??

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

In WA, the state allows shopkeepers the right to sue alleged shoplifters for the shops' cost in the incident. The statutes also allow reasonable attorney's fees to the shops.

I do not know if the state in which your son allegedly stole the hacksaw has a similar law. I would not be surprised if it does.

The letters likely are settlement offers to settle the civil claims.

Some people pay the claims as hiring an attorney to defend a civil lawsuit is often much more expensive that a few hundred dollars. Defendants in civil lawsuits generally do not get free attorneys.

Some people do not pay the claims.

Some debt collectors do not file lawsuits, especially against people who have no money.

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Posted

In Florida retail establishments such as Home Depot rarely, if ever, carry through with this threat in a shoplifting case. Out of the hundreds of thousands of cases they have, I doubt it they are going to start by suing your son. The cost of bringing a law suit when the alleged damages are $200 or less, means that it would be a waste of time for them to bring the lawsuit.

In fact, in a record article by the Wall Street Journal found that when a letter is sent out by Palmer, Reifler & Associates, P.A., the law firm gets to keep between 13% to 30% of the money it collects. The article reports that a partner at the law firm has said in a deposition that it sends out about 1.2 million such letters a year but follow up by suing fewer than 10 times a year.

Instead of actually suing anyone they just send the letter hoping someone worried about the criminal case will pay. And amazingly, many people do pay.

The statute, Florida Statute Section 772.11 allow for triple damages or a minimum of $200 when damages occur related to a theft offense. However, in the typical shoplifting case when the merchandise is recovered at the scene no actual damages occur.

Although no criminal defense attorney can know for sure whether an individual arrested for a misdemeanor offense of shoplifting will in fact be sued to collect damages under Florida Statutes Section 772.11, it is clear that these suits are rarely, if ever, brought in shoplifting cases. In fact, if the item was returned to the retail establishment without damage, then no actual damages occurred.

Even more problematic, the huge fees collected by retail establishments can often create an incentive for a loss prevention to be overly aggressive in the way they investigate an alleged shoplifting. If the retail establishment keeps 70-87% of the money collected, that money may go a long was toward pay the salary of the loss prevention employees. The fact that a letter was sent in the case can be used at trial to show that the loss prevention officer had a motive or bias to make this arrest. That motive or bias is being able to collect more money for his employer or earn a larger bonus for himself.

In fact, some loss prevention officers are awarded a bonus based on the amount of money collected from the civil demand letter. I have heard many clients recently tell me that the loss prevention officer tell them "you better make sure that you pay the $200." In fact, some retail establishments send the letters directly, instead of hiring a law firm to send the letter. This motive or bias could contribute or be on factor leading to the arrested of an innocent person.

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Posted

Palmer, Reifler & Associates was granted Summary Judgment in its favor in the law suit you referred to for each and every count. The statute in question require that there be an injury or that the retailer be injured in any fashion as a result of the actions of the individual trying to take merchandise or property from it. In Florida, taking possession of the merchandise with an intent to deprive the merchant of the benefit, use or full retail value causes an injury to the property rights of the retailer. The legislature placed minimum damages of $200 to apply even if the merchandise was recovered. We disagree with the attorney who feels that there are no actual damages. The time involved by the loss prevention staff in investigating, detaining and documenting the improper activity, the cost to restock and/or retag the item and the loss of time that the item is out of the stream of commerce can all be considered as damages even if the item itself is not damaged - because it is difficult to ascertain the exact amount of damages, the legislature enacted this statute to place a minimum civil damage amount of $200. Some call this a civil penalty request and feel it is reasonable to request it. Because the statute also allows for recovery of attorney's fees, if a person fails to pay in response to an initial request, some of the follow up demands request attorney's fees. This was evaluated by the Federal Court and the Court granted victory to the Law Offices of Palmer, Reifler & Associates, P.A.

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8 comments

Asker

Posted

This is the USA innocent until proven guilty you send out these letters without proof of guilt. Your pathetic, what if a homeless person steals something to eat, are you going to charge him 200 dollars. Business is good for scum like you.

Natt Owen Reifler

Natt Owen Reifler

Posted

We don't charge anyone any money. Instead we request payment on behalf of our clients when their property rights have been violated. However, if a person is homeless and stealing to eat most retailers would not ask us to make a civil statutory request.

Asker

Posted

You guys are actual cancer and scum of the US, the pure embodiment of everything wrong with the world today. Someone takes a 5$ item and you think that the loss prevention person (who is getting paid by the hour regardless of if anyone shoplifts or not) needs even MORE money if they catch someone shoplifting? But wait- isnt that their job that theyre getting paid for? Kmart is the one that decides to detain, it should be their responsibility to provide for their own employees. There is no way that there in any case is 200$ worth of damages done, youre just out for legal ways to shoplift/scam money from people. Google the law firm you work for, see the love people have for you.

Natt Owen Reifler

Natt Owen Reifler

Posted

The law was enacted by representatives for the people for a reason. Look into the laws of property in the bible and remember it is one of the 10 Commandments. We help retailers stay in business. Many of the statutes have an allowance for a multiple of actual damages or an allowance for additional "civil penalty" damages so whether a person is being paid to help investigate losses would not be the determining factor in the allowable damages, especially when in Florida, once "any injury" (including a property rights injury) is shown, the retailer may make a request for three times its actual damages but in any case at least $200. Therefore, in Florida, once the civil liability under the statute is triggered, the minimum statutory civil damages amount of $200 is allowed to be requested. If that amount is not paid within 30 days of the responsible party's receipt of the letter, that person could be pursued for the statutory damages as well as attorney's fees and court costs. Please don't try to paint the retailers or their attorneys as wrong for protecting their property and demanding what is right under the law.

Asker

Posted

Please don't paint average people who make mistakes as hardened criminals who deserve to held to the full extent of the law than! This is, and there is no argument, PURE EXTORTION! You may have the law to legally protect your firm but it is morally and socially wrong to harass and extort people for the exorbitant amount you claim is deserved to retailers and yourselves! Your getting rich off of lower class misery and from what I've read online, the fair majority of people you harass are families from which their children made these mistakes! You've obviously attended school for many years and probably sold your soul long ago but don't be blasé about claiming the work you do is good for anybody, because it's not! A $5 nail polish doesn't cost $200 to be retagged and placed back on a shelf and it is the retailers responsibility, financially, to cover the cost of loss prevention and should never be placed in the hands of the customer. The only way that would be socially acceptable is if customers wanted loss prevention and therefore it should be offered as a civil service, such as police. It is not my responsibility, nor any other customer's, to protect the bottom line of a retailer, that is simply their responsibility. If you want to stand on your soapbox and preach to the public that the work you do is good, and even in your head can be defended by god, than be paid salary by these retailers and don't take a cut from the commission! I have to agree with the fair majority that you people are scumbags, hiding behind the law. My partner made a mistake with a company last year that is represented by your firm and no charges were ever filed or brought to the courts, and after receiving your threatening calls and letters, we contacted our own attorney who said verbatim, to NOT PAY YOU A DIME, and if I happened to be one of the ten people you took to court, our attorney would gladly get the case dismissed and file a suit against you for extortion! I don't care what defense you have to make to anything I have to say, the bottom line is your fancy cars, big houses and lavish lifestyles are paid for with dirty money and gluttonous greed by you vultures and the money sick retailers whom will never receive my patronage again because they want their brand represented by you bastards!

Natt Owen Reifler

Natt Owen Reifler

Posted

We vehemently disagree with your opinions. While good people can make bad decisions, those same people will be less likely to make similar bad decisions when they take responsibility for their acts. The Florida Legislature enacted the law you are complaining about after seeing the devastating effect shoplifting and other types of theft has on companies. Natt Reifler

Natt Owen Reifler

Natt Owen Reifler

Posted

Anonymous - we vehemently disagree with your opinions. While good people can make bad decisions, they can also learn from their mistakes. The Florida Legislature enacted this law after seeing the devastating effect theft and shoplifting has on companies.

Zachary Walton Allen

Zachary Walton Allen

Posted

You're a disgrace to the legal profession - little more than legalized extortion artists who prey on the vulnerable. I say this to everyone who receives one of these letters from Palmer Reifler: DO NOT pay these scammers a dime. Throw their letters in the trash. If they call, hang up on them. They have no intention whatsoever of actually suing you. Eventually, they'll give up and slither back under their rock.

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