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Unsure about civil demand. Should I pay?

Kirkland, WA |

A person and I had been caught shoplifting, the items were returned undamaged when asked. The store gave us separate individual totals of what we took, they never combined the amounts. Now the demand letter stated that items valued at ### were taken from the store, which is NOT the amount that I took, but what I think is a combined amount of me and the other person.

Can they do this? I acknowledge that the letter didn't state "I" personally had taken ###, but it seems unreasonable the they combined the amounts. Also, does it not matter that the items were returned? What is the likeliness that they will pursue legal actions if not paid? The amount demanded is between $550-$700. (Sorry for ambiguity, I'm avoiding specifics) I am just observing some answers as I await my attorney meeting)

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Attorney answers 4

Posted

You received a civil demand letter, an offer to settle a possible claim against you. It is Just an offer.

In Kentucky, I had hundreds of clients who received such a letter and a few chose to pay it. If you do pay it, it does not affect your criminal case either way. Also, if you settle this matter without their resorting to a court case, they cannot bring such a claim later as the settlement should stop them.

On the other hand, if you choose not to pay their demand, they would have to prove their damages for restitution, and, as you've written, they may not be able to do that.

This is general informational response is based only on the information given. It should not be relied upon without consulting a lawyer and getting a full consultation. This response to the question does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Posted

The general agreemetn among Avvo attorneys is that a civil demand letter creates no independent obligation to pay. You should give special attention to anything which arrives from a court or police department, but a letter from a law firm, without the filing of a civil lawsuit, is a different matter.

The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advise" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.

Posted

The alleged shoplift opens you up to potentially both criminal and civil liability. In the criminal arena, Washington has a misdemeanor compromise statute which provides you can pay the retail establishment what they want and your case will be dismissed (court approval needed). There are some significant limitations on the application of the statute. Make sure you discuss that with your attorney. In terms of civil liability, the store could sue you civilly for their "damages" (i.e. the amount of money they are out b/c of the alleged theft). There are issues with double recovery depending on what happens in the criminal case. Definitiely talk to your lawyer about the potential civil ramifications.

Michael Charles Doland

Michael Charles Doland

Posted

Always give the most attention to the attorney licensed in your state Thank you Ms. Baunsgard.

Asker

Posted

I'm having the same problem, I just got my second demand and expecting a 3rd one too, I see that this was posted a whole back; what was your outcome? When did they stop contacting you? After 3 civil demands?

Posted

They aren't combining the amounts, they are charging you 5x the amount or some other percentage. 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.

Asker

Posted

I agree with the civil demand. Reason being is because once a shoplifter is caught it doesnt matter if its felony or misdiminor. They cost the store money if the merchandice is damaged or not. For example, a loss prevention officer always has to have a witness inside the office with them for legal protection, thus taking away labor from the job that that particular associate is supposed to do. That means they are losing time, money and sales on the floor. The next thing is if the shoplift is a felony. I dont know about any other states or citys, but in this particular city if its a felony the officer is required to take the merchandice as evidence. The evidence will not be released until the county attorney releases it, and in majority of the cases it takes about a year. By that time the merchandice is unsellable. Yes it does get sold but it gets sold to another business that buys it by the crate not by the value of the merchandice inside. So when this happens shrinkage in the stores goes up " loss of product, loss of money" and in that case, everyone knows that prices go up, but not only that, the store loses money so less labor is hired, bonuses and raises go out the door and moral gets shot to hell. These are not attorney working but single mothers, fathers... college kids any one that doesnt make the same amount of an attorney. So if it is true you dont have to pay the civil demand. That is your right, but you do affect allot of lives. They say that shoplifting is a victimless crime. Not so much.