Tilted Forum Project Discussion Community  

Go Back   Tilted Forum Project Discussion Community > Chatter > General Discussion


 
 
LinkBack Thread Tools
Old 03-18-2010, 01:39 PM   #1 (permalink)
Lover - Protector - Teacher
 
Jinn's Avatar
 
Location: Seattle, WA
Civil Recovery - not innocent until proven guilty anymore

I was recently doing some research on tort law in the wake of so many discussions about 'tort reform' and I came across a section about "Civil Recovery" laws.

If you haven't heard about them before, 'Civil Recovery' is essentially a type of tort law that allows merchants to collect damages related to shoplifting, criminal damage, or simply the costs of "investigation" of shoplifting to anyone suspected of theft or damages, regardless of criminal liability. A well known case is that of Glenn Rudge:

Big Retail Chains Dun Mere Suspects in Theft - WSJ.com

Quote:
After Miami handyman Glenn Rudge was accused of shoplifting an $8 set of drill bits at Home Depot, he thought he'd settled the matter when he showed his receipt to prosecutors and they dropped the charge.

But a few weeks later, a law firm hired by Home Depot began sending him letters demanding first $3,000, then a total of $6,000, implying he'd be sued if he didn't pay it.
This, to me, borders on racketeering. It flies in the face of the 'innocent until proven guilty' system that enables our rule of law, and I'm amazed to find out that all fifty states have some sort of civil recovery laws, and some federal installations like AX/PX have them.

The Accidental Thief - WSJ.com

Quote:
When lawyers and debt collectors pursue alleged shoplifters for monetary penalties with letters and phone calls, retailers call it "civil recovery." But the people targeted by the practice see it as something else. They describe it as a humiliating and intimidating process that leaves them all but defenseless.

There is little oversight of a system retailers call "civil recovery," created by special laws passed in all 50 states. With no proof of theft, the retailers demand money -- often $200 but sometimes far more -- and promise to avoid suing if it is paid quickly. Laws vary by state, but in general, retailers can demand these sums even if the item at issue was worth far less and was quickly recovered and put back on the shelf.
Frankly I'm shocked this sort of thing exists, and that there isn't more outrage behind it. This is the sort of tort reform I could get behind. But what about the stores? According to the same articles above, "retailers last year lost an estimated $40.5 billion to "shrinkage" -- as the industry refers to shoplifting, employee theft, and other inventory losses -- up from $37.5 billion the year before."

I understand their need to recover damages for lost or damaged goods, and even to help pay for 'security agents' responsible for watching for theft. But I personally think it should be tied to the outcome of a criminal case. If the case is dropped, then the ability to collect civil liability should be too. It seems that retailers are given the ability to collect money in the civil system without any sort of regulation or legal authority. Whats to stop stores from interrogating you for 'stealing' (even if you haven't), and then sending you a claim for the costs of that 'investigation' under Civil Recovery? In the case of state law, they're allowed to take you to creditors; in the case of federal law, they're allowed to garnish your wages or even collect it out of a tax credit or refund due you from the IRS (as they did me - ZING!).

What do you think?
__________________
"I'm typing on a computer of science, which is being sent by science wires to a little science server where you can access it. I'm not typing on a computer of philosophy or religion or whatever other thing you think can be used to understand the universe because they're a poor substitute in the role of understanding the universe which exists independent from ourselves." - Willravel
Jinn is offline  
Old 03-18-2010, 02:12 PM   #2 (permalink)
Invisible
 
yournamehere's Avatar
 
Location: tentative, at best
Personally, if it happened to me, I'd welcome the chance to see how a jury of my peers would rule; and how much in damages they would award me.
__________________
If you want to avoid 95% of internet spelling errors:
"If your ridiculous pants are too loose, you're definitely going to lose them. Tell your two loser friends over there that they're going to lose theirs, too."
It won't hurt your fashion sense, either.
yournamehere is offline  
Old 03-18-2010, 02:15 PM   #3 (permalink)
Lover - Protector - Teacher
 
Jinn's Avatar
 
Location: Seattle, WA
Quote:
Originally Posted by yournamehere View Post
Personally, if it happened to me, I'd welcome the chance to see how a jury of my peers would rule; and how much in damages they would award me.
How would you bring the case? It's legal within the current tort law in all 50 states and in some federal jurisdictions.
__________________
"I'm typing on a computer of science, which is being sent by science wires to a little science server where you can access it. I'm not typing on a computer of philosophy or religion or whatever other thing you think can be used to understand the universe because they're a poor substitute in the role of understanding the universe which exists independent from ourselves." - Willravel
Jinn is offline  
Old 03-18-2010, 02:28 PM   #4 (permalink)
... a sort of licensed troubleshooter.
 
Willravel's Avatar
 
Wait, so this is legal? Holy shit.

If Home Depot tried to legally extort money from me, I don't know what I could do beyond paying. What legal recourse would I have? The only real recourse would be to do something illegal, like robbing a Home Depot in another state and then paying them off with that money.
Willravel is offline  
Old 03-18-2010, 02:30 PM   #5 (permalink)
Asshole
 
The_Jazz's Avatar
 
Administrator
Location: Chicago
Jinn, torts have nothing to do with guilt. Absolutely nothing. Torts have to do with financial damages. Guilt has to do with criminal proceedings, which this isn't. It's an obvious civil action.

Were I Mr. Rudge, I'd call whoever wrote me the letter, inform them that I'm recording the conversation (Illinois is a 1 party state), tell them in no uncertain terms that if they have no valid debt and that as soon as their suit appeared, I'd immediately file a countersuit for malicious harrassment under the Fair Debt Collecting Act. It can be done by the individual in small claims court. That's all predicated on me doing absolutely nothing wrong, as it seems with Mr. Rudge.

Thing is, debt collectors, who are sometimes lawyers, are at the bottom of the pond. They're scum-eaters. Many of the people they go after are scum, and the debt collectors are rightfully pursuing them. But when they go to these extremes, there are federal laws in place to stop them.

Now, I've got no problem at all with companies going after actual criminals. I only get my dander up in cases like this, or when debt collectors do other things to find debtors.
__________________
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - B. Franklin
"There ought to be limits to freedom." - George W. Bush
"We have met the enemy and he is us." - Pogo
The_Jazz is offline  
Old 03-18-2010, 02:33 PM   #6 (permalink)
Invisible
 
yournamehere's Avatar
 
Location: tentative, at best
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jinn View Post
How would you bring the case? It's legal within the current tort law in all 50 states and in some federal jurisdictions.
I'm no lawyer, but isn't it up to the plaintiff to take me to civil court to get the money, if I don't voluntarily submit to their extortion? As the defendant, I have the right to a trial by jury.
__________________
If you want to avoid 95% of internet spelling errors:
"If your ridiculous pants are too loose, you're definitely going to lose them. Tell your two loser friends over there that they're going to lose theirs, too."
It won't hurt your fashion sense, either.
yournamehere is offline  
Old 03-18-2010, 02:36 PM   #7 (permalink)
Lover - Protector - Teacher
 
Jinn's Avatar
 
Location: Seattle, WA
You guys are missing the point; no suit needs to be filed with Civil Recovery -- you are given notice of an attempt to civil recovery in most states and if you fail to pay they take it to collections. In the case of federal civil recovery, they send you a notice of civil recovery and if you don't pay they take it from your IRS refund (if any) because the IRS is allowed to withhold money to settle other 'federal debts,' of which civil recovery is since 2002.

EDIT: Adding a link because I know that claim seems incredible:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_R...s_(Shoplifting)

Quote:
A conviction for shoplifting (theft) is not a prerequisite to the civil demand for damages by the retailer. The civil demand can be made and settled before a civil lawsuit is filed against the shoplifter in the appropriate civil court. A civil demand may be made by the retailer under most state laws whether or not a criminal prosecution has been initiated by the retailers' loss prevention personnel or local law enforcement.
__________________
"I'm typing on a computer of science, which is being sent by science wires to a little science server where you can access it. I'm not typing on a computer of philosophy or religion or whatever other thing you think can be used to understand the universe because they're a poor substitute in the role of understanding the universe which exists independent from ourselves." - Willravel

Last edited by Jinn; 03-18-2010 at 02:42 PM..
Jinn is offline  
Old 03-18-2010, 02:43 PM   #8 (permalink)
Asshole
 
The_Jazz's Avatar
 
Administrator
Location: Chicago
The thing about collections is that the debt holder has to prove that you owe the debt. Unless and until they do, you owe them NOTHING. Just because a debt collector says you owe doesn't mean that you do. And you have the right to dispute that debt.

Read the link I posted for someone who exploits stupid debt collectors for profit. Judges and juries don't really like debt collectors as a rule and don't like to side with them unless there's a good reason.

Seriously, Mr. Rudge could file suit himself in small claims court for a small amount (maybe under $100) and collect multiples of that from the debt collectors. What they're doing is illegal, and if you read the two articles you posted, Jinn, you'll see that they recognize that.
__________________
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - B. Franklin
"There ought to be limits to freedom." - George W. Bush
"We have met the enemy and he is us." - Pogo
The_Jazz is offline  
Old 03-18-2010, 02:59 PM   #9 (permalink)
Lover - Protector - Teacher
 
Jinn's Avatar
 
Location: Seattle, WA
I don't mean to be antagonistic, but I did read the articles I linked..

Quote:
Lord & Taylor, for instance, never follows up civil-demand letters by suing suspected shoplifters, its loss-prevention manager said in deposition about a year ago, citing the cost of going to court. Lord & Taylor collected about $1 million in civil recovery from suspected shoplifters in a recent year, up from $850,000 the year before, the official testified.
...

Civil recovery has rarely faced legal challenge. A 1993 challenge to Ohio's civil-recovery process cited the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. A U.S. magistrate said that law didn't apply because civil recovery wasn't an effort to collect a debt but "a settlement offer for potential tort liability."
It really doesn't seem that they think what they're doing is illegal; quite the contrary. They're defending it as a chance to settle a *potential* tort liability; if someone doesn't pay, they're collecting a payment without bringing a suit at all. And if someone refuses to pay, they can take them to collections for failure to pay a debt - again, without suit.
__________________
"I'm typing on a computer of science, which is being sent by science wires to a little science server where you can access it. I'm not typing on a computer of philosophy or religion or whatever other thing you think can be used to understand the universe because they're a poor substitute in the role of understanding the universe which exists independent from ourselves." - Willravel
Jinn is offline  
Old 03-29-2010, 08:59 PM   #10 (permalink)
Tilted Cat Head
 
Cynthetiq's Avatar
 
Administrator
Location: Manhattan, NY
The thing is Jinn is that while it's illegal, the AG isn't pursuing it for whatever reason.

So just like running a red light is illegal, people do it until their caught and fined.

I'm with Jazz. I have a pair of collections agency calling me for some debt they believe I owe. I tell them to go fly a kite because I don't owe it and they need to prove it since the records they are pulling up are 15+ years old. Prove that it's me that owes the money. They cannot except to say, "You do owe the money." I call bullshit, send them a cease and desist letter and they sell my account to another collections agency. A couple years go by and I get a call again. Rinse and repeat.
__________________
I don't care if you are black, white, purple, green, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, hippie, cop, bum, admin, user, English, Irish, French, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, indian, cowboy, tall, short, fat, skinny, emo, punk, mod, rocker, straight, gay, lesbian, jock, nerd, geek, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent, driver, pedestrian, or bicyclist, either you're an asshole or you're not.
Cynthetiq is offline  
Old 03-30-2010, 04:51 AM   #11 (permalink)
Asshole
 
The_Jazz's Avatar
 
Administrator
Location: Chicago
Jinn, companies do illegal things all the time. Wal*Mart (or any other big box retailer) has no legal right to check your receipt but they do it all the time. There's nothing especially illegal about claiming you owe a debt when you don't. If you're dumb enough to pay it, it's kind of an idiot tax in a way. It sucks to be them, but there's a very effective legal tool to get them to not only stop but to force them to pay you. The collection agency is the one that would most likely end up paying that penalty, but that's the cost of doing business. See my example above for that in action.
__________________
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - B. Franklin
"There ought to be limits to freedom." - George W. Bush
"We have met the enemy and he is us." - Pogo
The_Jazz is offline  
Old 03-30-2010, 07:21 AM   #12 (permalink)
Lover - Protector - Teacher
 
Jinn's Avatar
 
Location: Seattle, WA
The gaping hole in both of your arguments is when the organization is a federal organization. You can tell them to go fly a kite all you want, but then they just report you to the IRS, who is allowed to collect debts owned other federal organizations. And bam, it's taken out of your wages and/or your tax return.
__________________
"I'm typing on a computer of science, which is being sent by science wires to a little science server where you can access it. I'm not typing on a computer of philosophy or religion or whatever other thing you think can be used to understand the universe because they're a poor substitute in the role of understanding the universe which exists independent from ourselves." - Willravel
Jinn is offline  
Old 03-30-2010, 07:32 AM   #13 (permalink)
Asshole
 
The_Jazz's Avatar
 
Administrator
Location: Chicago
And Jinn, the hole in that argument is that the IRS doesn't collect for private entities. The IRS only collects for debts owed to federal agencies. Unless you're found guilty in court, which by all accounts above doesn't happen, there's no IRS involvement.

Or is there some federal involvement beyond the magistrate ruling against the Fair Debt Collection Act 17 years ago? That's the only mention I see. Otherwise, we're back where we started: if a private company incorrectly (for whatever reason) alleges you owe them money, you don't and you don't have to pay them shit. And you can collect penalties from them if they continue to pursue it without providing you with proof.
__________________
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - B. Franklin
"There ought to be limits to freedom." - George W. Bush
"We have met the enemy and he is us." - Pogo
The_Jazz is offline  
Old 03-30-2010, 08:07 AM   #14 (permalink)
Living in a Warmer Insanity
 
Tully Mars's Avatar
 
Super Moderator
Location: Yucatan, Mexico
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cynthetiq View Post
I'm with Jazz. I have a pair of collections agency calling me for some debt they believe I owe. I tell them to go fly a kite because I don't owe it and they need to prove it since the records they are pulling up are 15+ years old. Prove that it's me that owes the money. They cannot except to say, "You do owe the money." I call bullshit, send them a cease and desist letter and they sell my account to another collections agency. A couple years go by and I get a call again. Rinse and repeat.

I did this exact thing with AT&T for a number of years prior to moving to Mexico. So far no one has found me here, good luck with that. Bottom line was I didn't owe them money, never had an account with them. Just simply wasn't me. One thing I would add is make sure you keep an eye on your credit report and make sure it isn't recorded as a "bad debt" with any of the big three agencies.
__________________
I used to drink to drown my sorrows, but the damned things have learned how to swim- Frida Kahlo

Vice President Starkizzer Fan Club
Tully Mars is offline  
Old 03-30-2010, 08:22 AM   #15 (permalink)
Junkie
 
rahl's Avatar
 
Location: Ohio
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tully Mars View Post
One thing I would add is make sure you keep an eye on your credit report and make sure it isn't recorded as a "bad debt" with any of the big three agencies.
This is what worries me if a collections agency attempts to collect a debt. Doesn't it automatically affect your credit negatively when you go into collections? And if so, how can you rectify it?
__________________
"Your life is Yours alone...Rise up and live it"
rahl is offline  
Old 03-30-2010, 09:02 AM   #16 (permalink)
Junkie
 
Hektore's Avatar
 
Location: Greater Harrisburg Area
You can notify the reporting agency and have them remove the debt. They have to remove it unless the company reporting it can prove that you owe the debt.

Fair Credit Reporting Act - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
__________________
The advantage law is the best law in rugby, because it lets you ignore all the others for the good of the game.
Hektore is offline  
Old 03-30-2010, 09:33 AM   #17 (permalink)
Tilted Cat Head
 
Cynthetiq's Avatar
 
Administrator
Location: Manhattan, NY
Quote:
Originally Posted by rahl View Post
This is what worries me if a collections agency attempts to collect a debt. Doesn't it automatically affect your credit negatively when you go into collections? And if so, how can you rectify it?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hektore View Post
You can notify the reporting agency and have them remove the debt. They have to remove it unless the company reporting it can prove that you owe the debt.

Fair Credit Reporting Act - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
exactly. you can challenge what is listed in your credit report and the debtor must prove you owe the debt.

this is why they do not put it on your record, and they continue to sell it from one agency to another, so that they can keep calling you and keep calling you.
__________________
I don't care if you are black, white, purple, green, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, hippie, cop, bum, admin, user, English, Irish, French, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, indian, cowboy, tall, short, fat, skinny, emo, punk, mod, rocker, straight, gay, lesbian, jock, nerd, geek, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent, driver, pedestrian, or bicyclist, either you're an asshole or you're not.
Cynthetiq is offline  
 

Tags
anymore, civil, guilty, innocent, proven, recovery

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On



All times are GMT -8. The time now is 01:42 PM.

Tilted Forum Project

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2022, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Search Engine Optimization by vBSEO 3.6.0 PL2
© 2002-2012 Tilted Forum Project

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 204 205 206 207 208 209 210 211 212 213 214 215 216 217 218 219 220 221 222 223 224 225 226 227 228 229 230 231 232 233 234 235 236 237 238 239 240 241 242 243 244 245 246 247 248 249 250 251 252 253 254 255 256 257 258 259 260 261 262 263 264 265 266 267 268 269 270 271 272 273 274 275 276 277 278 279 280 281 282 283 284 285 286 287 288 289 290 291 292 293 294 295 296 297 298 299 300 301 302 303 304 305 306 307 308 309 310 311 312 313 314 315 316 317 318 319 320 321 322 323 324 325 326 327 328 329 330 331 332 333 334 335 336 337 338 339 340 341 342 343 344 345 346 347 348 349 350 351 352 353 354 355 356 357 358 359 360