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Understanding the Elements of a Civil RICO Claim

David H. Schwartz, INC Jan. 10, 2024

In U.S. federal law, a civil RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) claim holds a prominent place. This legal action necessitates proving certain elements to establish liability, and understanding these elements is crucial for individuals or businesses contemplating or involved in such claims. It's purpose? To provide legal recourse for individuals or entities who have been harmed by the activities of an organization engaged in a pattern of racketeering or corruption. This encompasses a broad spectrum of fraudulent activities, including (but not limited to) bribery, extortion, money laundering, and illegal gambling. Crucially, the RICO Act extends liability beyond the individuals who directly perpetrate illegal acts, to include those who own or manage organizations that are used to facilitate such activities. This has far-reaching implications, enabling victims to hold powerful entities accountable for their involvement in organized crime. 

For those needing assistance with the complexities of a civil RICO claim, the Law Offices of David H. Schwartz, INC, located in San Francisco, California, provides the necessary guidance and representation. Attorney David H. Schwartz has been serving clients throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda County, and Oakland for over 45 years, offering high-quality representation and a hands-on approach to business litigation. Don't hesitate to reach out and schedule a consultation to protect your rights. 

Short Overview of a Civil RICO Claim 

A civil RICO claim is rooted in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a federal law designed to combat organized crime and corruption. It empowers individuals or businesses to seek legal remedies for damages inflicted by racketeering activities. To successfully establish a civil RICO claim, specific elements must be proven, which we'll delve into in the following section. 

Elements of a Civil RICO Claim 

To successfully navigate a civil RICO claim, the plaintiff typically needs to prove the following elements: 

Existence of an Enterprise 

The plaintiff needs to show the existence of a "RICO enterprise". This could be a person, partnership, corporation, association, or any other legal entity. It’s essential that this enterprise is an ongoing organization with a common purpose. 

Pattern of Racketeering Activity 

The plaintiff must demonstrate a pattern of racketeering activity, involving at least two or more predicate acts within a specified timeframe. Predicate acts encompass a variety of criminal offenses, including bribery, extortion, fraud, and other specified crimes. 

Participation in the Enterprise 

It’s necessary to establish that the defendant had a part in the operation or management of the enterprise. This participation may involve conducting the enterprise's affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity. 


The plaintiff must demonstrate a direct causal relationship between the defendant's participation in the enterprise and their injury. This requires showing that the defendant's racketeering activity was a proximate cause of their harm. 

Injury to Business or Property 

The plaintiff needs to prove that they suffered an injury to their business or property as a result of the RICO violation. This could range from financial losses and damage to business reputation to other tangible harm. 


Finally, the plaintiff must establish that they have standing to bring a RICO claim. This generally means that the plaintiff was directly harmed by the RICO violation. Certain relationships, such as competitor standing, may also be considered. 

Civil RICO claims are complex and require intricate legal and factual analysis. The specific requirements and interpretations can vary based on the circumstances and legal precedents. 

Pursuing a Civil RICO Claim in Court 

Bringing a civil RICO claim involves navigating a complex legal process. The first step is to consult with an experienced business litigation attorney like David H. Schwartz, who's well-versed in civil RICO claims. They'll assess the merits of your case and guide you through the legal process. 

Once you've decided to proceed with the claim, your attorney will draft a complaint outlining the allegations and the elements of the civil RICO claim. This complaint will be filed with the appropriate court and served on the defendants. 

The defendants then get an opportunity to respond to the complaint, either by filing a motion to dismiss or by answering the allegations. The court will review these filings and determine whether the case should proceed to the next stage. 

If the case moves forward, the discovery phase begins. This is where both parties exchange relevant documents, gather evidence, and take depositions of witnesses. Discovery is a critical phase in building a strong case and uncovering additional evidence to support the civil RICO claim. 

After discovery, the parties may engage in settlement negotiations or alternative dispute resolution methods. If a settlement can't be reached, the case will proceed to trial. During the trial, both sides will present their arguments, call witnesses, and present evidence to support their positions. 

Understand the Elements of a Civil Rico Claim 

Grasping the elements of a civil RICO claim is vital for anyone entangled in or considering such claims. The Law Offices of David H. Schwartz, INC. offers the necessary legal guidance and representation for individuals or businesses dealing with civil RICO claims. With over 45 years of experience serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Attorney Schwartz offers a hands-on approach and a wealth of knowledge in business litigation. Contact him today to schedule a consultation and safeguard your rights in civil RICO matters.