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Questionable Demands Sent to Parents of Minors

by Attorney Daniel Blinn

There is no question that retail stores are harmed by shoplifting. Connecticut law provides that businesses can recover damages against adults who are caught shoplifting. Another Connecticut statute provides that parents can be held responsible for certain actions of their minor children. But, our interpretation of these laws does not support a claim that parents are liable under the shoplifting statute for the mistakes of their children.

A recent story by NBC 30 discusses collection letters sent by a New York attorney to Connecticut residents whose children were caught shoplifting. I was interviewed for that story, and I reviewed the letters sent to Connecticut residents. These letters sought hundreds of dollars against the parents under the Connecticut shoplifting statute. According to the news report, many parents have paid money in order to resolve these claims, even though the law firm has never sought to enforce these claims in court. As I indicated in the interview, I do not believe that the claims are supported by Connecticut law.

We are not surprised that these stores (including JC Pennys and Walmart) have not tested their lawyers' legal theory in court. I am also troubled by the fact that these letters give parents the false impression that if they do not pay the amount demanded, they would be sued or face other serious consequences. Anyone receiving such a letter would be wise to seek legal advice before sending their money.

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