Legal Corner

Contains current legal articles and discussions regarding Civil Recovery Law.

Civil Recovery in the Sunshine State

Many people are familiar with civil recovery demands in Florida for $200 and use that amount as requested statutory damages for any civil shoplift or internal theft demands made. However, they may be leaving money on the table by not pursuing civil theft claims for what the Legislature of Florida intended.

Florida Statutes Section 772.11 provides that “[a]ny person who proves by clear and convincing evidence that he or she has been injured in any fashion by reason of any violation of [Florida Statutes Sections] 812.012 – 812.037 or s. 825.103(1) has a cause of action for threefold the actual damages sustained and, in any such action, is entitled to minimum damages in the amount of $200, and reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs in the trial and appellate courts.” [1] A corporation is entitled to the civil remedy described above because a corporation is considered a person under the law in Florida.[2]

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Tort versus Debt: Does a request for civil damages arising from a theft constitute the collection of a debt?

When a request for civil damages is made, many retail theft offenders assume that the request qualifies as an attempt to collect a debt and mistakenly believe that they are provided with the protections listed under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Congress enacted the FDCPA in 1977 “to eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors, to ensure that those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt collection practices are not competitively disadvantaged, and to promote consistent state action to protect consumers against debt collection abuses.”[1] The FDCPA and its state law relative “equivalents” are clearly intended to protect consumers from abusive debt collection practices. Debt falls under the realm of consumer law and is governed by the FDCPA and the above-mentioned various state statutory equivalents. Under the FDCPA, a debt is defined as “a consumer’s obligation … to pay money arising out of a transaction in which the money, property, insurance or services [being purchased] are primarily for personal, family or household purposes …”[2]

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Civil vs. Criminal: What is the Difference?

The difference between a civil claim and a criminal claim and the fact that there can generally be either a civil or criminal claim or both simultaneously stemming from the same incident is hard for many people who are caught shoplifting to understand.  Most are familiar with the criminal procedure: when you break the law, the police are called and you’re arrested.  You then are given a court...

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About Time

There has always seemed to be a split amongst retailers as to the desirability of civil recovery. Further, among those retailers that favor civil recovery, there has always been an additional split as to which cases to take to civil court and when.

Some retailers feel that civil recovery is a helpful way of recouping a small portion of the vast amount of money lost due to theft (even when shrink is kept below industry standards), with the objective being to help fund loss control devices, exception based reporting software, case management software and other Loss Prevention initiatives as well as to help offset payroll for employees working in LP/AP. Other retailers feel that civil recovery is a necessity of business because they have been told its rewards outweigh its risks and is part of the status quo within the organization and industry.

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Merchant Detention Statutes: What is Considered a Reasonable Detention?

As a follow up to last week’s article by Michelle Gomez which discussed the length of time that is considered reasonable under states’ merchant detention statutes, this article will focus on what actions are considered reasonable during a detention. All of the statutes are similar in that they allow a merchant to detain a person in a reasonable manner when the merchant has reasonable cause to believe that the person has or is attempting to unlawfully take merchandise from the premises. But what does “in a reasonable manner” mean exactly?

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Who Has Liability as an Accomplice?

One of the biggest issues when stopping a shoplifter who is with another or a group of others is determining whether the others can be apprehended as well. In the majority of states, so long as the person has knowledge of the offense taking place and aids or encourages the primary participant in one form or another, that person can be apprehended as an accomplice and can potentially have the same liability as the primary participant.

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