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Should a civil demand letter just be ignored? What should i expect if i ignore it? Can this affect my credit?

Garden Grove, CA |

My 15 year old daughter was caught shoplifting $80 worth of clothes from Urban Outfitters. She got a paper informing me about a possible civil demand and the police were called. The police and courts have now referred her to a diversion program. Now that all of this is over I receive a civil demand for $350 from Palmer and associates Orlando, florida. Should I just ignore it? What should i expect if i do? Can this affect my credit?

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

No, they can NOT ding your credit because of this. A "civil demand letter" is only worth the paper it's written on. It is a request for money. If you ignore it, they must make a choice - let it go or file a small claims case against your daughter.

They'll let it go.

Why? Because they got the merchandise back and probably just put it back on the shelf to be sold to the next customer, so they aren't really out anything.

The letter you got was from a firm in Florida. Yes, they have a lawyer in California that is "of counsel" so they can legally send those letters, but let's look at reality. First, attorneys can NOT get involved in a small claims case, so a letter from a firm in Florida is all bark and no bite. Next - that firm was quoted a while back as saying they send over a million and a half letters per year and of those, they file lawsuits in less than 10 cases. Not ten percent.... ten. Period. The odds are overwhelming they won't do anything if you ignore their letters. If you do some digging, you'll find that the attorney that is "of counsel" to the Florida firm is not going to pursue a small claims matter.... they are a name on a letter so it can legally proceed.

In fact, most of these firms that offer civil demand letter services to merchants pride on the sales pitch that it is a "litigation free" experience. That means they don't sue. They send letters, get what they can and move on.

If there is any actual restitution for damages caused by your daughter's conduct, she'll be required to pay for it through the diversion program. The store will be made whole from any damage. The civil demand is, in my opinion, pure profit and greed on behalf of the store. They're trying to capitalize on a situation where people are scared and vulnerable. They hope people will pay thinking it will help their criminal case (it won't) or that it will stop them from suing (they don't anyway).

Best of luck to you and your kid. Lesson learned.

The above answer is for general information only and is based on the information you posted. Every case is fact dependent, so to get a thorough analysis of your situation, you will need to consult face to face with an attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the incident took place. Do not conclusively rely on any information posted online when deciding what to do about your case.

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Posted

Will they send it to a collection agency? I read a couple of articles on here that say it's possible it'll affect my credit and that's the only thing I'm concerned about.

Joseph Briscoe Dane

Joseph Briscoe Dane

Posted

I could write you a letter out of the blue and request that you send me $500. If you ignored me, can I ding your credit? No. There is no contractual obligation to pay. Besides - this is your daughter's incident. It should have zero effect on YOUR credit. If you are still concerned and want to guarantee nothing happens, pay the hundreds of dollars they ask for, get a release and put this behind you.

Posted

What is the 350 for. I would have someone dispute this ASAP if that is proper. We deal with this all the time. Can they report you to a credit agency, yes. Whether it is proper or not is another story. Did you make restitution to the store?

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Joseph Briscoe Dane

Joseph Briscoe Dane

Posted

Sorry - I respectfully disagree that this could be reported to a credit bureau. This is not a debt owed... it is a civil demand letter. That's it.

Posted

The consensus amongst Avvo attorneys is to ignore these civil demand letters. They will keep coming and you should not respond in any manner. The only thing your daughter has to comply with is the order of the court.

Andrew Roberts (818) 597-0633/ (805) 496-7777

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