What to do about a civil liability claim regarding a retail theft?

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What to do about a civil liability claim regarding a retail theft?

I received a settlement offer from a law firm representing a company. I was never charged with an offense but they are still looking for damages. I was in the store buying items and I started to return the items when my new born started crying. So I put them on top of the stroller and picked him up. My 2 year old ran off so I put my child down and chased after him. I grabbed him, went back to the stroller, and immediately went to pay for other items forgetting about the ones in the stroller. Is that considered intent? Is it worth fighting in court or should I pay the $375 they’re asking for?

Asked on December 9, 2010 under Criminal Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

For civil liability--i.e. it's not a criminal case against you--the store may sue you for the value of the items you took and can likely recover some collection or legal fees. It's not a function of "intent" for a matter like this--if you took items that did not belong to you for any reason, you are liable for them.

If you try to fight it, you could--assuming the items are in returnable shape--probably not have to pay for them as long as you return them, but you would still likely have to pay some court, legal, and/or collection costs (i.e. they'd likely be awarded something). If the $375 is significant to you, you should probably try to negotiate it down and/or go to court and see if you can get it reduced; but since you'll likely have to pay *something* anyway, if you can afford the $375, it might be best to pay and get a settlement prohibiting them from taking any other action on it, just to be done.


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