I was caught shoplifting at Walmart in IL a month ago. They asked me to come into a back room and to hand over the stuff, which totaled to about $12. The police were not called, but they took my license and photocopied it and also asked me to sign a form saying that I shoplifted and would be getting a letter in the mail soon, with a number to call if I wanted to "take care of this" before the letter arrived. I did not call the number, but have received two letters from The Law Offices of Michael IRA ASEN asking me to pay $300. I assume this is a civil demand letter? Should I make the payment?
I generally advise clients to ignore these civil demand letters. You don't owe them anything. In order for you to owe them something they would have to sue you, (in some jurisdictions prove damages) and win. Even if they could prove damages (which I doubt they could in most cases) and win, the cost of suing you is substantially greater than any amount they can possibly hope to recover. As such they don't pursue it. They send out these letters hoping that you don't know better and simply send them the money. Nothing will happen to you if you don't pay it.
Illinois law states that you are liable for these type of fees if you committed the act. However most people that disregard the demands are not pursued by the company. In additon, payment of these fess will not cause your criminal case to be dismissed or the fines and court costs to be reduced, so what good does it do to pay?
Every case varies depending on the law and the facts. Because questions often fail to disclose important facts, these 'answers' cannot and should not be relied upon as a replacement for a full or complete review of an actual case by a retained attorney. It is axiomatic that one only 'gets what they pay for', and this is one of those situations where such a phrase generally applies.
Some law firms, such as Michael Ira Asen, are infamous for issuing these demand letters. Be advised that while there is an Illinois statute that permits them to pursue these claims, a claim denial letter that I typically issue in response to these claims has so far been 100% successful in getting them to abandon the claim. (My fee is always less than the demand). If you ignore it, they will likely continue sending demand letters, often demanding a higher amount each time under the guise of "attorney's fees." If you choose to ignore them, you risk having a judgment entered against you for an amount up to $1,000 in excess of the value of the merchandise plus attorney's fees and court costs.. If you pay, you may be wasting your money on a frivolous, defensible claim, and get yourself listed in a database retailers use to bar people from obtaining future employment. In other words, there's a better, more cost-effective way to deal with this than simply paying, or ignoring, the demand. Free consultation is available. www.galivanlaw.net
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