The Standard of Proof in Connecticut for Civil Theft

In Stuart v. Stuart, to be officially released on June 22, 2010, the Connecticut Supreme Court clarified the standard of proof for civil theft cases in Connecticut (download decision here).  Prior to this ruling, there was some confusion amongst attorneys and trial courts as to the appropriate standard of proof for a civil theft claim under Connecticut General Statutes section 52-564.  

Connecticut’s civil theft statute states, in pertinent part:

Treble damages for theft. Any person who steals any property of another, or knowingly receives and conceals stolen property, shall pay the owner treble his damages.
 

To successfully allege civil theft, an attorney must plead and prove the elements of larceny under Connecticut General Statutes section 53a-119.  The key element that must be established is the taking or withholding of property with the intent  to deprive another person of the property.  Some examples of successful use of Connecticut’s civil theft statute:

  • Overdrawing on bank accounts
  • Theft of business or corporate property
  • Accepting insurance premium payments in excess of required amounts
  • Defrauding another of bank funds
  • Refusal to return deposit on purchase and sale agreement
  • Wrongful seizure of personal or business property
  • Stealing utilities
  • Depleting business accounts
  • Diverting account receivables

The takeaway from the Stuart case is that the cause of action for civil theft remains the same.  However, the Connecticut Supreme Court has clarified that an attorney only needs to establish proof of civil theft by a preponderance of the evidence.