Civil demand letters are often sent from law firms representing large retailers to individuals accused or convicted of theft. Law firms typically target young adults, likely because they are more easily intimidated. These letters demand an amount of money as restitution that is often in excess of the value of the products, even if the items were recovered undamaged.
If a retailer is successful in winning a lawsuit, the court can order the payment of the following damages pursuant to Ohio Revised Code section 2307.61:
- $50 if the value of the property was $50 or less;
- $100 if the value of the property was between $50 and $100;
- $150 if the value of the property was more than $100;
- Liquidated damages in the amount of $200 or three times the value of the property (whichever is greater); or
- Reasonable administrative costs including the cost of maintaining the civil action and reasonable attorney's fees (if the value of the property is less than $5,000).
Civil demand letters often threaten further legal action if payment is not made. Retailers can file a civil lawsuit if the amount demanded is not paid within thirty days. However, making payment does not guarantee that a lawsuit will not be filed or that police will not pursue criminal charges. Law enforcement has the sole discretion to determine whether shoplifting results in criminal charges.
Making payment in response to a civil demand letter is generally not in the best interest of clients. Law firms send out civil demand letters because they are inexpensive and efficient compared to court proceedings. Although retailers have legal authority to pursue civil actions against shoplifters, civil demand letters rarely result in lawsuits because the cost of filing and maintaining a case is too prohibitive.
Fogt Law Can Help You
Fogt Law will address a civil demand letter along with your theft case or you can seek to retain our office separately. We are here to help!