Chapter 10: Frivolous Lawsuits
The following is the final chapter of my text, Don’t Get Sued! A Guide to Help Reduce Your Business’s Exposure to Lawsuits:
Try not to live in fear of frivolous lawsuits. You read and hear a lot in the media about silly lawsuits and inflated verdicts. The truth of the matter is that those are aberrations from the norm. In fact, if you dig a little deeper into the cases that get a lot of attention, such as the now well-known dry cleaner’s case, where the owner of a dry cleaning store was sued pro se (without representation) by a judge for losing his suit. Despite offers by the dry cleaner to settle the matter for far more than the suit was worth, the plaintiff pressed on (forgive the pun). Eventually, the matter went to trial and the dry cleaner prevailed, the judge is not going to be a judge any longer and there are efforts by counsel for the dry cleaner to recoup some of the defendant’s costs, including legal fees.
There is also the case about McDonald’s coffee that was so hot that when it spilled on a woman, she suffered very serious burns, and the case went to trial and a huge verdict was rendered. Well, as usual, there is more to that story too. Apparently, according to jurors, they had become convinced that McDonald’s had been serving coffee that was so hot as to be beyond industry standards, and they had been warned about the problem. The jury felt that punitive damages were necessary to get the attention of the big corporation. In the end, the case resolved for far less than the original publicized verdict.
Finally, those in fear of being sued need to understand that personal injury attorneys, like myself, typically don’t get paid a fee unless there is a recovery. So naturally, I don’t take cases in which it would be either difficult to prove, or if the client isn’t really injured, or both. I don’t want to waste my time and I am quite sure that other plaintiff’s attorneys, at least in general, are equally selective. There are also certain counter claims available to those wrongfully sued, including a claim for abuse of process and/or for wrongfully instituted civil proceedings.