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I just got a civil demand letter from Palmer , Rifler & Associates , should I ignore it ?

New York, NY |
Attorney answers 3


From what I know, the law firm specializes in retail theft recovery and so I assume that you were caught shoplifting and they are seeking restitution. The following is NOT legal advice, but just basic information so that you can make an educated position. Suing someone for $89.75 does not make sense. The way firms like this make money is by sending millions of letters to convicted shoplifters and then taking a percentage - likely between 10% and 30%. Just taking you to small claims court would cost the firm several thousands in legal fees, not to mention the court filing fee to start the claim. The firm probably expects that some people, likely a considerable number, will simply pay the money, and that is why they try to recover money for their clients. This sort of "business model" does not permit them to sue people who do not pay unless the amount is significant - $89.75 is most definitely not a significant amount and the firm would lose money by suing you.

Thus, and based on the foregoing, you can take a calculated risk and not pay it, but it's up to you. You'll likely get 3 or 4 follow-up letters. I would be surprised if they sue you. If they do sue you, you can settle once the claim is filed, though the amount you need to pay to settle may increase a bit.

Good luck!!

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Based upon their prior history it is unlikely that they will actually file a lawsuit. Wait and see if they file.

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I advise my clients not to pay this civil demand because I have never seen a store sue to collect as it is not worth their time and money. I write letters to the store or their attorneys for my clients directing the store or its lawyers not to communicate with my client and to only deal with me. This stops the store or its lawyers from contacting my clients any further.

I am a former federal and State prosecutor and now handle criminal defense and personal injury/civil rights cases. Feel free to check out my web site and contact me at (212) 577-9797 or via email at I was named to the Super Lawyers list as one of the top attorneys in New York for 2012. No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by Super Lawyers. The above answer is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.