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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Do you know? Ohio’s Civil Theft Statute

Do you know? Ohio has a specific statute that allows for one to sue civilly 1009934_question_con_2 for theft. Not only can one recover the amounts stolen, but also three-times that amount as liquidated damages. Because of this penalty provision, Ohio’s civil theft statute is a powerful tool to combat employee theft.

Ohio Revised Code 2307.61 is Ohio’s civil theft statute. It permits recovery for theft and willful damage of property. In addition to compensatory damages for the value of the property stolen or damaged, it also allows for the recovery of three times the value of the property as liquidated damages.

Moreover, it the amount at issue is less than $5,000, the owner of the stolen property is also entitled to recover costs (which includes the cost the written demand for payment, postage, and court costs) and attorneys’ fees if the following three conditions are met:

  1. A written demand, via certified mail, for payment must be made at least 30 days prior to filing suit.

  2. The written demand must identify the alleged theft offense, inform that suit will only be brought if repayment is not made within 30 days, and advise that the suit could result in a potential judgment that could include costs and attorneys’ fees. 

  3. Repayment is not made or an agreement to repay is not reached within the 30-day period.

Pursuing a claim under this statute is not without some risk. If the defendant (for example, the employee accused of theft) prevails, he or she is entitled to recover the cost of defending the civil action plus any compensatory damages that may be proven. Because of this risk, it is important that an employer considering pursuing a civil theft claim has conducted a full investigation and is reasonably confident in its right to recover.