If someone has had money or property taken from them by means of theft, fraud or exploitation, Florida’s Civil Theft Statute may offer them relief, and harsh punishment for the perpetrator.
Under Florida Statute 772.11, plaintiffs who assert successful civil theft claims are entitled to recovery of treble (triple) damages and attorney’s fees. Civil theft claims can be asserted by individuals and businesses alike, and are meant to create civil liability for crimes of theft, robbery, and exploitation of elderly persons. Anyone contemplating asserting a civil theft claim under Florida law should be aware of some its nuances and requirements before filing an action for civil theft.
First, civil theft claims require a showing of “clear and convincing evidence” making it more difficult to prove than other similar causes of action. Generally, clear and convincing evidence falls somewhere in between the preponderance of the evidence standard and evidence that is beyond a reasonable doubt.
Additionally, civil theft claims require proof of “felonious intent.” This means a plaintiff must prove that one “knowingly obtained or used or endeavored to obtain or use” plaintiff’s property with felonious intent to either temporarily or permanently deprive plaintiff of its use of the property. Therefore, someone failing to pay you money owed under a contract does not equate to civil theft; more is needed.
Also, prior to filing a lawsuit for civil theft, a party must serve a pre-suit demand letter, which demands payment of $200 or the treble damage amount of the claim, to the individual liable for the damages. If the recipient of the demand letter complies and pays within 30 days of receipt of the letter, they are relieved of any further civil liability and will be given a written release of the claim. An action for civil theft can only be filed if the defendant fails to pay within these 30 days.
Lastly, a civil theft claim that is fount to lack substantial fact or legal support can result in the plaintiff paying legal fees and costs to the alleged thief. This provision of the statute is an important consideration and should prevent the filing of unsubstantiated civil theft claims.
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*Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to be legal advise. 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.*