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Q: Attempted extortion? ( No Answer,   2 Comments )
Subject: Attempted extortion?
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: kmdug_v-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 20 Jan 2006 05:52 PST
Expires: 21 Jan 2006 18:23 PST
Question ID: 435761
My son destroyed a personal item of another student which was left in
the hallway of his dorm.  The campus police was called and they said
that if he paid for the item he would not be charged with what they
said would be a felony.  When asked the owner said the item was worth
$2000 (which we feel is quite high for an item like that - especially
since it was left out in the hallway).  My son agreed to pay, but the
owner told him to wait until yesterday when he informed my son that he
wanted $3400 for the item.

Does he have any choice but to pay the increased amount?  Should we
pay with a certified check?   Should we demand to get the remains of
the damaged item when we pay?  Should we demand to have the item
appraised by a third party?
What if he claims to have discarded the item?
What else do you recommend?
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Attempted extortion?
From: siliconsamurai-ga on 20 Jan 2006 06:30 PST
I would recommend contacting a lawyer. This isn't anything to fool with.
Subject: Re: Attempted extortion?
From: markvmd-ga on 20 Jan 2006 12:13 PST
The following isn't legal advice.

You should always consult an attorney regarding legal matters. Many
will provide an initial consultation free, or at a remarkably
reasonable price. Prepare well for the consult and don't waste the
attorney's time.

You could pay the increased amount and then sue in small claims for
redress, demanding proof of value. If you do this, you should note on
the payment (DON'T pay cash!) that you are paying under protest and
reserve the right to litigate. An attorney can suggest terminology
(and would probably sensibly try to steer you away from such a course
of action-- but then, they get paid to do that). This is a rather
roundabout way to get back an overpayment and the court does not look
kindly on folks who seem to have second thoughts about payment.

Despite the police intervention, there is no reason for you not to
demand (via certified letter, return receipt requested) prompt proof
of ownership and amount paid and/or proof of present depreciated
value. For instance, what if the item destroyed was actually stolen
from someone else by the so-called owner? Such a person cannot legally
benefit from the item being destroyed (of course, your son would be on
the hook to the real owner, if they can be found). Proving ownership
of such a big-ticket item, whether $2000 or $3400 should be a simple
matter; rarely are purchases of this amount made with cash and, if so,
should have supporting documentation (paycheck in that amount being
cashed, bank withdrawal, etc.). You can help yourself by doing your
own investigating into the original and depreciated value of the item.
Be sure to compare oranges to oranges.

If you are not contesting the fact that your son destroyed the item
and are willing to admit he should reimburse the other party for it,
you can state so in your letter. Careful, 'cuz that puts him/you on
the hook for it.

If your son is a minor, he might not be able to be held to his
statement to the police. He should also be taught not to admit to
ANYTHING when dealing with cops. If he gets arrested based on false
statement by another person, he can sue. If he gets arrested 'cuz he
said "I'm sorry, it was an accident; I did it" he has nobody to blame
but himself.

If the destruction was accidental, it could be argued that the owner
had some responsibility for failing to keep the item safe or secure.
For instance, leaving a laptop out in the middle of a busy street
would lead many (I would say "all" but who can be sure?) judges to
rule against the owner in an action to recover from a motorist who ran
the thing over.

You should check your insurance or the insurance provided by the
school (find out what insurance, if any, they provide) to see if this
incident is covered.

If the other person stated in front of the police that the item was
$2000 and would accept that amount (and the owner is an adult), you
should quickly (before they destroy their notes or forget the
incident) get a report or statement from the police to that effect.

Good luck.

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