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 which they most likely couldn't do), and win. Even if they could win, the cost of pursuing this is substantially greater than any amount they can possibly recover so they usually don't. They send out these letters because it doesn't cost much and they are hoping that you don't know better and simply send them the money. Nothing will happen to you if you don't pay it.
My best guess without any other facts mentioned, which any attorney would tell you not to divulge here without an attorney-client relationship, is the person making the demand will sue the parent based on that statute. If the parent does not defend, a default judgment will be rendered, and that person can do a number of things to collect the money judgment.
That statute states that parents/guardians of minors who shoplift are responsible for actual loss of whatever was stolen, attorneys fees, and court costs.
Whoever received the demand needs to hire an attorney.
I, like Mr. Lieberman, generally advise my clients of the store's rights, the likelihood of the store exerting those rights, and then allow my clients to choose for themselves. Under 570.087, a store is entitled to come after a shoplifter and recover the value of the store's actual damages, plus a $100-250 fine to punish that individual. Now, most stores do not actually pursue these claims. Instead, they hire some lawyer to send out letters and then split all the money sent in by shoplifters who choose to comply with the demand. If I received one, I'd ignore it. But I'd make that decision taking into account that if the store were to pursue a civil claim, I could be on the hook for actual damages, up to $250 fine, AND ALL COURT COSTS AND ATTORNEY'S FEES. Still, I would roll the dice and not pay. My clients have chosen to do the same, along with having me send the lawyer who sent the demand a letter informing him that I represent my client related to that matter and to cease all contact with him/her, instead communicating with me. I've yet to receive a response.
John M. Eccher
Ward, Hollingshead & Eccher
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