From time to time, the JFCY blog will host guest youth bloggers who will write on a legal topic relevant to youth. This time, please welcome back Tracy Chen, a third-year Ryerson Journalism student. The following scenario continues on from the previous blog post. Today’s post explains what happens after Clara is caught shoplifting and is sent Civil Recover Demand Letters from the store.

Days after Clara is caught shoplifting, Wal-Mart sends her a Civil Recovery Demand Letter.

These letters are often signed by a lawyer and demand payment of amounts in the range of $300.00 to $475.00 to a collection agency, called “Civil Recovery” claiming the costs of detecting shoplifters in their stores. The letters sometimes suggest that if you don’t pay by a certain date the amounts will increase.  

These letters are not a court order. You can choose the pay the amount or not. If you do not pay, the store can start a lawsuit. It has been JFCY’s experience that it is rare for the lawyer or company to follow up with a court action if someone refuses to pay.

So, Clara can ignore the letter. In most cases of shoplifting the store has not lost money once items are recovered.

If the letter is addressed to the parent, the parent does not have to pay either. Parents are only legally responsible for harm caused by their children if the parents are negligent in the way they supervised them or directed their children to cause harm.  

A Civil Recovery Demand Letter will often refer to the Parental Responsibility Act as the basis for the store’s claim against the parent. This Act only states that a parent might have to prove they were not negligent. This does not mean that the parent is always legally responsible for their child’s actions. It is unlikely that a court would find parents negligent for allowing their teenage to go shopping at a mall. 

For more information on what to do if you are caught shoplifting or if you have received a Civil Recovery demand for shoplifted items, please take a look at this helpful legal information pamphlet on Shoplifting (Civil Recovery). For other topics, consult our general Legal Information Pamphlets link!

To watch this informative video on the topic click here: