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Civil lawsuits, called “civil litigation” in legalese, are always with us. I don’t handle most types of litigation in my practice, but I am sometimes asked by prospective clients whether they have a “good case” and might win if they filed a lawsuit. Since this is not my area of interest, I usually refer people on to other attorneys experienced in these issues for an answer.
Who has the right to sue, and under what circumstances? We all have the right to bring a lawsuit if we believe we have been wronged by another party, and we feel the situation has not been corrected outside of court. A lawsuit may be brought in federal courts, if it is believed a federal law was broken, or in state courts, if state laws are the issue. Some suits may begin in state courts and be moved to federal courts because there are both state and federal issues.
There are nearly 1.5 million lawsuits filed each year in California. They range from small claims actions to complicated and costly filings, and cover a wide range of matters – touching on nearly everything that happens to us in our daily lives:
Personal Injury Financial Malpractice
Medical Errors Legal Malpractice
Labor & Employment Issues Securities Fraud
Defective Products Intellectual Property
Civil Rights Business Fraud
Real Property Issues Social Security and Federal Issues
Lawsuits give people a fair chance to get justice through the legal system when they believe they have been injured by the negligence or misconduct of others. The system is designed to provide a forum for both sides and to make a determination based on credible evidence. It makes it possible for an ordinary citizen to take on another person, a business of any size, a governmental agency, or other large entities, and have the grievance heard and resolved in court.
It is important to remember that someone’s accusation is not the same thing as evidence. Both sides may make claims about the issue, but a judge will most likely require documentary evidence, such as signed statements, financial records, contracts, letters, or affidavits. Evidence from third party witnesses is also considered more objective than the statements of the parties to the lawsuit. Trained professionals such as police, doctors, schoolteachers, social workers and others who do not have a stake in the outcome of the case are credible sources of evidence.
The civil justice system offers checks and balances – giving wronged parties an opportunity to secure recompense if they can prove an injury, and serving as a harsh reminder to the other parties that they must act responsibly and will be held accountable and must pay for their negligent actions.
Many people believe that most lawsuits are unnecessary, frivolous or malicious. This is not really true. The majority of litigation in the U.S. is reasonable and well-founded in serious issues. However, there are occasional episodes of foolish, meritless suits which catch the public’s attention. And there are always a few cases which appear to be silly or outrageous on the surface, but when all the facts are revealed, become clear and understandable to the average person.
Frivolous or malicious lawsuits are those that are brought by people who have little or no credible evidence of injury, or no basis in the law for challenging others. They are often initiated to harass or bully people, or to try to gain assets to which they are not entitled. Faking or exaggerating physical injury after a car accident is one example.
Suing an ex-boyfriend for the return of gifts you gave him is another.
Once in a while, some lawsuits are just plain dumb:
An owner of a high-end antiques store sued four homeless people for $1 million because he said they congregated in front of his shop and scared away potential customers. One million dollars from people who live on the streets?
Some time ago, Anheuser-Busch, producer of Budweiser beer, ran a series of ads in which two beautiful women come to life in front of two truck drivers. A Michigan man bought a case of beer, drank it, but no two women materialized. Not even one woman appeared. The man sued Anheuser-Busch for more than $10,000. Case was dismissed.
This article was originally posted HERE.