Did everybody but me know this was going on? The Wall Street Journal tells the story of a Home Depot customer being pursued for $6,000 in damages by the chain for being falsely accused of shoplifting an item assessed a thousand dollars higher than its actual price through a clerical error. And evidently, this is part of a common practice.
To quote the Journal: "The chain's letters to suspected shoplifters are sent out by a Florida law firm called Palmer Reifler & Associates, which also handles the task for four dozen other clients, from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to Walgreen Co., keeping 13% to 30% of what it collects. A partner at the law firm has said that it sends out about 1.2 million civil-recovery demand letters a year but follows up by suing fewer than 10 times a year.
Leading people to fear a suit when none is likely makes civil recovery a kind of "shakedown," contends Walter Hanstein III, a Maine lawyer who complained about Palmer Reifler to the Florida bar association last year. "