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Civil RICO Lawsuits: What are ‘Treble Damages’?


Under the Florida Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act, a plaintiff can file a civil lawsuit against defendant(s) who engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity. Notably, a plaintiff that files a successful civil RICO claim can seek treble damages. Under U.S. law, treble damage provisions allow courts to triple the amount of the compensatory damages. Here, our West Palm Beach RICO claims lawyers explain the most important things to know about treble damages.

Treble Damages are Threefold Damages

 The federal civil RICO state (18 U.S. Code § 1964) explains the concept of treble damages well: A plaintiff who brings a successful civil RICO action “shall recover threefold the damages he sustains and the cost of the suit, including a reasonable attorney’s fee.”

In other words, there is an enormous amount on the line in a civil RICO case. Under Florida law and federal law, the total value of the claim is three times as high as it would be if it was pursued under another fraud statute. 

Civil RICO Lawsuits and Treble Damages: Case Example 

In 1992, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida issued a decision in the case of Colonial Penn Ins. Co. v. Value Rent-A-Car Inc. In this case, the plaintiff—an insurance company called Colonial Penn—filed a RICO lawsuit on the grounds that it was knowingly and fraudulently induced into paying rebates to the defendant (Value Rent-A-Car) based on false statements and misleading documentation.

In reviewing the allegations, the court determined that Colonial Penn satisfied the high burden of proving a civil RICO violation. The court assessed that the named defendants engaged in a pattern of ongoing racketeering activity, which caused actual damage to the insurance company. Based on the plain language of the civil RICO statute—a successful plaintiff is entitled to “recover threefold the damages”—the court awarded treble damages.

RICO Damages are Comprehensive

Knowing that treble damages are triple damages, it is also important to understand what counts as a “damage” under RICO law. Notably, Florida’s case law has developed to clarify that the proper measure of RICO damages is the “any direct financial injury” that flows from the pattern of racketeering activity.

In effect, this means that RICO damages are interpreted in a relatively broad manner. If you can prove a RICO violation (a high burden), then any and all financial harm that occurs as a direct result of that violation should be considered and included when a court determines the baseline for calculating treble damages.

Get Help From Our Florida Civil RICO Attorneys

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida civil RICO claims lawyers represent clients with honesty, personalized attention, and high level professional skill. If you have questions about treble damages and RICO, our legal team is ready to help. Call us now for a confidential, no commitment initial review of your case. We represent clients in civil RICO cases in West Palm Beach, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and throughout all of South Florida.

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