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Business Woes And Florida’s Civil Theft Statute


Business litigation lawsuits stem from a number of different situations. Our office has seen suits involving losses or other damages to companies because of contract disputes, alleged violations of non-compete agreements, and various types of fraud or civil theft allegations. In these cases experienced business litigation attorneys can help companies recover adequate compensation for the losses their business incurred as a result of the wrongdoing of the other party. If a business dispute involves fraud or other criminal allegations, it is even more important to engage with experienced attorneys who can help you navigate through the process of seeking additional compensation under Florida’s Civil Theft Statute.

 Remedies for Civil Theft 

If the plaintiff of a case can demonstrate that the other party violated the law, such as through civil theft, that plaintiff might be able to recover additional compensation under Florida’s Civil Theft Statute. The Florida courts and legal system recognize that businesses can be significantly damaged via acts of fraud and theft. Accordingly, the law has been developed so that if a person or party engages in deceptive practices in order to financially benefit, or otherwise acts with the intent to cause harm, the courts may award the victim what is called “treble damages.” If awarded treble damages, this means the company receives three times the amount of money that they actually lost as a result of the theft. The court may also order that the defendant pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees.

Proving Civil Theft

So if a Plaintiff is able to prove civil theft, they may be awarded treble damages. But – how does a party prove that civil theft occurred? Well, it is not always easy. Because of the magnitude of the potential consequences, Florida courts have ruled that in order to prove a civil theft occurred, the Plaintiff must provide clear and convincing evidence that a “conversion” of money or assets occurred. The plaintiff must show that money or assets that belonged to them were illegally transferred to another party, and that the defendant of the suit acted with criminal intent to deprive the plaintiff of the property or the benefits they would enjoy from the ownership of the property.

For evidence to be “clear and convincing” the court must find that based on the evidence provided, the claims of the suit are “substantially likely” to be true.

Types of Fraud

The Civil Theft Statute allows businesses to seek to recover from losses related to a number of different varieties of fraud and/or theft. Some items that are potentially applicable to the statute include cases which can provide clear and convincing evidence of the following:

  • The defendant paid for goods or services by using a forged check.
  • The defendant made false representations when the parties entered into an investment deal (such as being deceptive about the value of the company).
  • Using a fraudulent receipt in order to receive a refund.
  • Stealing business items or assets and selling them.

Breach of Contract?

Breaches of contract can lead to significant headaches and losses to a company.  However, generally speaking, most breaches of contract will not meet the standards required to be labeled as a civil theft. While exceptions apply, in large part businesses may only be able to sue for compensation of losses that occurred due to the breach. To see if your specific circumstances fall into one of the exceptions and might be pursued under Florida’s civil theft statute, discuss the details of your case with an experienced attorney.

Contact Suncoast Civil Law

The Sarasota business litigation lawyers at Suncoast civil law understand what’s on the line when your business suffers from fraud or theft. Let our experienced attorneys help your business navigate through these next steps and ensure your business continues to thrive.