My wife and I were at a party Saturday night and the conversation turned to … what else? The economy. The couple I was speaking with were worried, like everyone should be, about where things are heading. One asked whether I have seen more people wanting to file lawsuits in the last six months. I told her that it would only make sense that this market would heighten someone’s sense of being wronged and the need for recompense. But I knew that she was really talking about "frivolous claims," the kind that they believe are choking the system. We agreed that if someone was prone to file a frivolous claim a year ago, they would surely be at least as prone to do so today.
As our conversation continued, it came out that their news came from one place – Fox. It was from this source that they reached their initial conclusion. I opined that there is probably data to support that conclusion, but not as they envision it. Collections agencies are quicker to file lawsuits on unpaid medical and consumer bills, more and more people are filing for bankruptcy when they lose their jobs, lending institutions have a hair trigger for instituting mortgage foreclosures and, yes, people are probably more prone to file lawsuits today.
But the real issue is – why? Is the financial crisis turning consumers into a bunch of whiners who want something for nothing? Common sense would suggest otherwise. It only makes sense that businesses feeling the crunch will be more likely to skirt the law in an effort to protect their bottom lines. Insurance companies will deny claims that they would have honored a year ago. More companies will fire older, higher paid workers in violation of age discrimination laws. Banks will breach credit agreements that they would not in happier times. Scammers, be they individuals or companies, will be scammers.
Most prospective clients that we talk to feel compelled to tells us in the initial interview that they are not "the type to file a lawsuit." We always let them know that we would not represent them if we thought so – judges and juries give awards to those that they believe deserve them. Perhaps the moral in this story is that forming an opinion based only on one source may result in an opinion that is not exactly fair and balanced.
Cum Laude graduate of Cumberland School of Law, Pet Mackey is a civil trial litigation expert who represents plaintiffs in business and consumer tort, contracts and construction, employment disputes and insurance. He is board certified as a Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Certified Alabama Mediator, and an “AV” rated lawyer by Martindale-Hubbell.