2307.61 Civil action for willful damage or theft.

(A) If a property owner brings a civil action pursuant to division (A) of section 2307.60 of the Revised Code to recover damages from any person who willfully damages the owner's property or who commits a theft offense, as defined in section 2913.01 of the Revised Code, involving the owner's property, the property owner may recover as follows:

(1) In the civil action, the property owner may elect to recover moneys as described in division (A)(1)(a) or (b) of this section:

(a) Compensatory damages that may include, but are not limited to, the value of the property and liquidated damages in whichever of the following amounts applies:

(i) Fifty dollars, if the value of the property was fifty dollars or less at the time it was willfully damaged or was the subject of a theft offense;

(ii) One hundred dollars, if the value of the property was more than fifty dollars, but not more than one hundred dollars, at the time it was willfully damaged or was the subject of a theft offense;

(iii) One hundred fifty dollars, if the value of the property was more than one hundred dollars at the time it was willfully damaged or was the subject of a theft offense.

(b) Liquidated damages in whichever of the following amounts is greater:

(i) Two hundred dollars;

(ii) Three times the value of the property at the time it was willfully damaged or was the subject of a theft offense, irrespective of whether the property is recovered by way of replevin or otherwise, is destroyed or otherwise damaged, is modified or otherwise altered, or is resalable at its full market price. This division does not apply to a check, negotiable order of withdrawal, share draft, or other negotiable instrument that was returned or dishonored for insufficient funds by a financial institution if the check, negotiable order of withdrawal, share draft, or other negotiable instrument was presented by an individual borrower to a licensee under sections 1321.35 to 1321.48 of the Revised Code for a loan transaction.

(2) In a civil action in which the value of the property that was willfully damaged or was the subject of a theft offense is less than five thousand dollars, the property owner may recover damages as described in division (A)(1)(a) or (b) of this section and additionally may recover the reasonable administrative costs, if any, of the property owner that were incurred in connection with actions taken pursuant to division (A)(2) of this section, the cost of maintaining the civil action, and reasonable attorney's fees, if all of the following apply:

(a) The property owner, at least thirty days prior to the filing of the civil action, serves a written demand for payment of moneys as described in division (A)(1)(a) of this section and the reasonable administrative costs, if any, of the property owner that have been incurred in connection with actions taken pursuant to division (A)(2) of this section, upon the person who willfully damaged the property or committed the theft offense.

(b) The demand conforms to the requirements of division (C) of this section and is sent by certified mail, return receipt requested.

(c) Either the person who willfully damaged the property or committed the theft offense does not make payment to the property owner of the amount specified in the demand within thirty days after the date of its service upon that person and does not enter into an agreement with the property owner during that thirty-day period for that payment or the person who willfully damaged the property or committed the theft offense enters into an agreement with the property owner during that thirty-day period for that payment but does not make that payment in accordance with the agreement.

(B) If a property owner who brings a civil action pursuant to division (A) of section 2307.60 of the Revised Code to recover damages for willful damage to property or for a theft offense attempts to collect the reasonable administrative costs, if any, of the property owner that have been incurred in connection with actions taken pursuant to division (A)(2) of this section, the cost of maintaining the civil action, and reasonable attorney's fees under authority of that division and if the defendant prevails in the civil action, the defendant may recover from the property owner reasonable attorney's fees, the cost of defending the civil action, and any compensatory damages that may be proven.

(C) For purposes of division (A)(2) of this section, a written demand for payment shall include a conspicuous notice to the person upon whom the demand is to be served that indicates all of the following:

(1) The willful property damage or theft offense that the person allegedly committed;

(2) That, if the person makes payment of the amount specified in the demand within thirty days after its service upon the person or enters into an agreement with the property owner during that thirty-day period for that payment and makes that payment in accordance with the agreement, the person cannot be sued by the property owner in a civil action in relation to the willful property damage or theft offense;

(3) That, if the person fails to make payment of the amount specified in the demand within thirty days after the date of its service upon the person and fails to enter into an agreement for that payment with the property owner during that thirty-day period or enters into an agreement for that payment with the property owner during that thirty-day period but does not make that payment in accordance with the agreement, the person may be sued in a civil action in relation to the willful property damage or theft offense;

(4) The potential judgment that the person may be required to pay if the person is sued in a civil action in relation to the willful property damage or theft offense and judgment is rendered against the person in that civil action;

(5) That, if the person is sued in a civil action by the property owner in relation to the willful property damage or theft offense, if the civil action requests that the person be required to pay the reasonable administrative costs, if any, of the property owner that have been incurred in connection with actions taken pursuant to division (A)(2) of this section, the cost of maintaining the action, and reasonable attorney's fees, and if the person prevails in the civil action, the person may recover from the property owner reasonable attorney's fees, the cost of defending the action, and any compensatory damages that can be proved.

(D) If a property owner whose property was willfully damaged or was the subject of a theft offense serves a written demand for payment upon a person who willfully damaged the property or committed the theft offense and if the person makes payment of the amount specified in the demand within thirty days after the date of its service upon the person or the person enters into an agreement with the property owner during that thirty-day period for that payment and makes payment in accordance with the agreement, the property owner shall not file a civil action against the person in relation to the willful property damage or theft offense.

(E) If a property owner whose property was willfully damaged or was the subject of a theft offense serves a written demand for payment upon a person who willfully damaged the property or committed the theft offense and if the person, within thirty days after the date of service of the demand upon the person, enters into an agreement with the property owner for the payment of the amount specified in the demand but does not make that payment in accordance with the agreement, the time between the entering of the agreement and the failure to make that payment shall not be computed as any part of the period within which a civil action based on the willful property damage or theft offense must be brought under the Revised Code.

(F) A civil action to recover damages for willful property damage or for a theft offense may be joined with a civil action that is brought pursuant to Chapter 2737. of the Revised Code to recover the property. If the two actions are joined, any compensatory damages recoverable by the property owner shall be limited to the value of the property.

(G)

(1) In a civil action to recover damages for willful property damage or for a theft offense, the trier of fact may determine that an owner's property was willfully damaged or that a theft offense involving the owner's property has been committed, whether or not any person has pleaded guilty to or has been convicted of any criminal offense or has been adjudicated a delinquent child in relation to any act involving the owner's property.

(2) This section does not affect the prosecution of any criminal action or proceeding or any action to obtain a delinquent child adjudication in connection with willful property damage or a theft offense.

(H) As used in this section:

(1) "Administrative costs" includes the costs of written demands for payment and associated postage under division (A)(2) of this section.

(2) "Value of the property" means one of the following:

(a) The retail value of any property that is offered for sale by a mercantile establishment, irrespective of whether the property is destroyed or otherwise damaged, is modified or otherwise altered, or otherwise is not resalable at its full market price;

(b) The face value of any check or other negotiable instrument that is not honored due to insufficient funds in the drawer's account, the absence of any drawer's account, or another reason, and all charges imposed by a bank, savings and loan association, credit union, or other financial institution upon the holder of the check or other negotiable instrument;

(c) The replacement value of any property not described in division (H)(1) or (2) of this section.

Cite as R.C. § 2307.61

History. Effective Date: 06-28-2002; 2008 HB545 09-01-2008