How Can You Bring A Civil Theft Claim Against An LLC?

A Limited Liability Company is a type of business structure that is known for its tax benefits and limited liability. Limited liability applies when the owners of the LLC are not and cannot be held personally responsible for business debts or other liabilities. Under Florida law, a civil theft claim requires four elements: that the thief (1) knowingly, (2) obtained or used, (3) endeavored to obtain or use, (4) someone else’s property. Simply put, it requires that you prove that something was wrongfully taken. The intent to steal might be the most important element when it comes to claims against an LLC.

Who Do I File The Claim Against?

Civil theft claims can be filed against an officer of a corporation for theft committed by the officer in the scope of his or her employment. The claim would be improper if the officer did not participate in the theft. Non-managerial employees of the business may also be held liable if they stole or converted items. If this is the case, the employer would also be vicariously, or partly, liable, and may pay up to triple the damages.

The plaintiff, or the person claiming the injury, can sue the LLC, or they can attempt to “pierce” the “corporate veil” and sue the officer personally responsible for the civil theft. The Florida Supreme Court held that a corporation is a separate entity from its shareholders and has a corporate veil. In order to pierce that veil, the plaintiff must show that the corporation was organized or used to mislead creditors or to perpetrate a fraud upon them. In a civil theft claim, the plaintiff may be able to bring the action against the officer or representative of an LLC who was responsible for the theft committed by the individual while acting on behalf of the LLC. If the officer did not personally participate in the theft, then the plaintiff may not be able to pierce that veil, and the claim would not be appropriate against the individual.

The plaintiff must make a written demand for the amount owed to them. The defendant, or the person to whom the demand letter is direct to, has thirty days to respond. If the response to the written demand is received by the plaintiff, then the defendant is given written release of civil liability for the specific act of theft. The statute of limitations to bring an action for civil theft is five years, and it begins from the time when the conversion was, or should have been, discovered.

What Are Some Civil Remedies I Can Seek?

Civil theft remedies are not equivalent to remedies sought from a breach of contract, therefore there is no civil theft where there is a contractual relationship. Also, when it comes to attorney’s fees, either party may be able to recover the expenses. For example, if someone brings a Civil Theft Claim and the claim does not have legal or substantial support, the defendant will be awarded their reasonable court costs and attorney fees.

Under Florida law, if the plaintiff voluntarily dismisses their claim for civil theft, the trial court will deny the defendant’s entitlement to attorney’s fees, since the defendant was unable to prove or make findings to support the defendant’s argument that the plaintiff’s claim had no legal or substantial support.

EPGD Business Law is located in beautiful Coral Gables, West Palm Beach and historic Washington D.C. Call us at (786) 837-6787, or contact us through the website to schedule a consultation.

*Disclaimer: this blog post is not intended to be legal advice. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns. Contacting us through our website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.*

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