I received a letter stating i need to pay Palmer Reifler a settlement offer for $300 for civil damages claim should i pay ? Help
5 attorney answers
Don't pay. My step daughter received the same letter three years ago, and while I was tempted to have her pay, they do nothing, because there are a lot of people who will pay as soon as they receive the letter.
It's not a civil "fine" - it's a civil demand letter. California law allows a merchant to demand up to $500 following a theft incident. These letters are typically sent by the store or a law firm acting on their behalf. They are all bark and no bite. If you ignore the letter, they have to make a choice - let it go or file a small claims case against you. I have never heard of anyone actually being sued if they ignore the letter. Why don't they do anything? Because lawyers cannot get involved in small claims cases and it isn't worth the store's time to pursue a small claims case over such a minor amount. There is one law firm in Florida that does nothing but these kind of civil demand letters on behalf of stores. They were quoted in a Wall Street Journal article as sending out over one and a half million letters a year, but they filed less than 10 lawsuits. Not ten percent. Not ten thousand. Ten. The odds are overwhelming that they won't do anything. If you choose to pay their demand, it just means they won't sue you, but it will have no impact on any criminal prosecution. Paying it won't stop criminal charges from being filed and not paying it won't make a criminal case worse or cause charges to be filed if they weren't going to be in the first place.
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.
This is not a fine, but is a "civil demand." Retailers can ask for up to $500 in compensation from alleged shoplifters.
The problem is that this civil demand has no bearing on any criminal matters. If you pay it, it does not mean criminal charges cannot be filed, and if you do not pay it, there will be no harsher penalty if criminal charges are filed. If the police were not contacted chances are there will not be any criminal charges.
These law firms attempt to intimidate people into paying the civil demand, and if people cave, it is pretty much free money for them. Their recourse is to file a small claims suit, which will cost them more in time than the $300 they are asking for. It is highly unlikely that they will do so.
I agree with Mr. Marshall. I have never had a client receive a follow up communication to a Palmer letter that they ignored.
In addition, I caution you to be on the lookout for a letter from either the City Attorney's office or the District Attorney's office. If a report was submitted, even if police were not called while you were present, there is the possibility of criminal charges. If you get a letter stating criminal charges have been filed against you, DO NOT IGNORE IT. For a petty theft, prosecutors have up to one year to file charges.
The fact that I have answered this question does not establish an attorney client relationship between the questioner and myself or my office.
Do you have a pet bird? You can use their letter to line your bird or hamster cage. Letters from Palmer, Reifler & Associates are also good for cat boxes.
Seriously, these guys are all bark and no bite. They told a major newspaper that they send out 1.5 million letters a year and file "fewer than ten" lawsuits. I suspect the actual number is closer to zero.
There are several "civil demand" law firms, but they all work on commission. keeping part of what they collect, then sending the balance to the stores they collect. Expenses come out of the law firm's share, so they stop wasting stamps if they send a few letters and don't get a response.
As far as I can tell, PR&A has never actually filed a lawsuit in California. If you respond to them in any way, they'll continue to hassle you, and if you actually agree to make payments, that's probably an enforceable contract.
This question comes up a lot on Avvo, and the general consensus is to ignore them and they'll go away.
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