What would happen if I ignored a civil demand letter?

I was stopped after leaving a store one day because the friend that I was with had stolen a couple of mascaras. I never took anything but since I was with her, I was considered an accomplice. They split the charges between the 2 of us, and now I have received a demand letter for $300. I do not feel like iI should have to pay for this. Do you recommend I pay it in full, pay half or ignore?

Asked on May 28, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, California


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

These civil demands are routinely made but rarely, if ever, acted upon. In other words your chances of being sued are virtually zero. So you can choose to ignore this letter if you want.  Be aware, if you don't pay after this first letter you will get second, and it will request an even higher amount. Again, you can choose to ignore it. If, however, you do decide to make payment, pay no more than a token amount (in this case $25 or so, plus the retail value of any merchandise that may have been too damaged for them to re-sell).  I would put this in a letter to them; don't speak with them directly. These people are notorious for their threatening and intimidating tactics. 
You didn't mention any criminal action so I will assume that this did not become a police matter. However, if it did, and you do choose to pay the demand prior to a court appearance, such a payment may or may not negatively affect your case. It could be seen as an admission of guilt.

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