Civil theft is a common law conversion with the criminal intent to steal. See 1-27 Florida Torts § 27.07. Florida Statute 812.014 (2014) states the elements for civil theft as:
(1) knowingly, (2) obtained or used, or endeavored to obtain or use, the plaintiff’s property, (3) with felonious intent, (4) either temporarily or permanently to (a) deprive plaintiff of its right to or a benefit from the property or (b) appropriate the property to the defendant’s own use or to the use of a person not entitle to the property.
See Florida Statutes section 812.014 (2014); see also § 16:12 Civil Theft. However, before filing a claim for civil theft, the person claiming injury (plaintiff) must make a written demand for the amount due or treble damage amount. The person to whom the written demand is directed to-the defendant-has 30 days to respond. If a response to the written demand is received, then the defendant is given written release of civil liability for the specific act of theft. The statute of limitations for a civil theft claim is five years and it begins from the time when the conversion was or should have been discovered, rather than when the defendant unlawfully retained the funds.
The Florida Supreme Court has held that a corporation is a separate entity from its shareholders and has a “corporate veil.” Dania Jai-Alai Palace, Inc. v. Sykes, 450 So.2d 114 (Fla. 1984). In order to pierce that corporate veil, “it must be shown that the corporation was organized or used to mislead creditors or to perpetrate a fraud upon them.” Id. at 119-20. However, a civil theft claim may be brought against an officer or representative of a corporation for theft committed by the individual while acting on behalf of the corporation. A-1 Racing Specialties, Inc. v. K&S Imports of Broward County, Inc., 576 So.2d 421, 422 (Fla. 4thDCA 1991). If a corporation officer did not personally participate in the theft, a civil theft claim is not appropriate against the individual. Derrick v. Clemons, 576 So.2d 939, 940 (Fla. 5th DCA 1991). In addition, it has been held that there is no civil theft where there is a contractual relationship. See Zinn v. Zinn, 549 So.2d 1141, 1142 (Fla. 3d DCA 1989) (citing Rosen v. Marlin, 486 So.2d 683 (Fla. 3d DCA 1986)). Note that civil theft does not apply to recovery of contract damages.
If you are a corporation, or a representative of a corporation, that has been sued for civil theft, or want to sue a corporation or representative of a corporation for civil theft, schedule a consultation with the experienced attorneys at EPGDLaw today, located in beautiful Coral Gables. Call us at (786) 837-6787 or e-mail us to schedule a consultation.