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Alleged shoplifters target Home Depot in lawsuit

Tables turned? Lawyers jump on practice of settlement letters to shoplifting suspects.

The Home Depot is the subject of a class-action lawsuit claiming that the world's largest home improvement retailer is impropertly negotiating for settlement with shoplifting suspects.

The complaint was originally filed in Alameda, Calif. by Jimin Chen. According to media reports, Chen claims he forgot to put a pair of gloves into the shopping cart in time for the cashier to notice. He later received a letter from Palmer, Reifler & Associates asking for a $350 settlement. He got another letter a couple weeks later asking for $625, threatening legal action otherwise, he claims.

According to Bloomberg, Palmer sends out more than a million demand letters on behalf of Home Depot each year.

Atlanta-based Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes told HCN that the general practice is within the company's legal bounds.

"We're still reviewing the details of the complaint, but we do disagree that the general practice of civil demands is unlawful," he said. 

ABC News reports that one of Chen's lawyers, Christian Schreiber, referred to the letters as a "fraudulent business practice...likely to deceive members of the public as to their legal rights and obligations." Schreiber claims that the retailer has yet to act on any of its threats to sue customers, suggesting that it is merely playing a "numbers game" together with the law firm that depends on a certain percentage of customers paying the settlements.

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