We’re all familiar with those signs in retail shops selling fragile items that say, “If you break it, you buy it.” No one protests that rule or insists on a discount to the wholesale price the store paid to acquire the item it was selling. After all, when the item was broken the store not only lost what it had paid for the broken item, but also for its overhead, display, promotion of that item, compensation of employees and its anticipated profit from the ultimate retail sale to a customer.
Everyone implicitly acknowledges that the retail price fairly compensates the retail seller for its loss of a broken item of inventory. Everyone, that is, except for the Oregon Supreme Court.
That Court has now announced its decision in State v. Islam, 359 Or. 796 (2016) that Oregon courts should disregard the common sense proposition that when someone steals or breaks goods that are for sale at retail, the retail price is presumptively the measure of all of the seller’s economic damages. Instead, the Oregon Supreme Court has held that a thief convicted of stealing goods from a retail store should presumptively only pay the store’s wholesale cost to buy the items the thief has stolen and kept. Court said that the victim is not entitled to any additional damages unless it takes the time and makes the effort to produce evidence that its damages exceeded its wholesale cost.
In short, the Court has decided to put the burden on the victim to prove its economic damages exceeding its wholesale cost of the stolen product from any theft. The thief, who intentionally steals the goods, will thus often get a greater discount than seems fair and a far better price than someone who inadvertently breaks the same item in the store.