Texas Small Claims Cases

Civil Theft

Civil theft was a cause of action created back in the 1980’s by the Texas Legislature to create a way for one person to sue another for conduct that was previously only criminal in nature.

Specifically, the Texas Theft Liability Act (“TTLA”) creates a civil cause of action for committing certain types of theft as defined by Chapter 31 of the Texas Penal Code, and a person who commits one of the listed types of theft is liable for the damages resulting from the theft, plus statutory damages of up to $1,000 and attorney’s fees. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §§ 134.003(a) and 134.005. Under the TTLA, “theft” means unlawfully appropriating property or unlawfully obtaining services as described by Section 31.03, 31.04, 31.06, 31.07, 31.11, 31.12, 31.13, or 31.14 of the Texas Penal Code. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 134.002(2). Under section 31.03 of the Texas Penal Code, a person commits an offense if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property. Tex. Pen. Code § 31.03(a). Deprive means to withhold property from the owner permanently or for so extended a period of time that a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property is lost to the owner. Tex. Pen. Code § 31.01(2)(A).