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squirbel's avatar

Lawsuits: are they used or abused?

Asked by squirbel (4292points) March 10th, 2008 from iPhone

What do you think about the knee-jerk reaction of using lawsuits to settle disputes? [loaded question, be immune to my view]

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13 Answers

delirium's avatar

Actually, i’m working on an art project and watching court TV right now (embarrassing, i know, but there’s nothing else to run in the background), so i’m going to say yes.

CCRHHS's avatar

A lot of the time suing is used for getting money or getting even with someone. A good example would be the idiot who filed suit against mcdonalds because they claimed that didn’t know the coffee was hot so now on the coffee cups it says caution hot. But in some cases lawsuits are good.

jrpowell's avatar

It is better than going behind the bar and using pistols to settle our disputes.

Are they abused? Sure thing. Are then needed? Yes. How do we fix them? I don’t know.

kevbo's avatar

I was going to say definitely lawsuits are abused, but then I got to thinking that it’s pretty much a right to sue, isn’t it? Can you abuse a right? I can’t think of another example of a right that is “abused” going by the letter of the law. I mean, someone has a right to drink. If they drink too much and drive, doesn’t it become something else at that point, (i.e. not merely an abuse of their right to drink)? I’m not saying I know the answer, but it seems like it would be hard to… uh, prove.

You know, I guess I would say it’s not abuse, per se. I would say that the system needs to be tweaked/better managed so that “deserving” lawsuits are the vast majority. Perhaps lawsuits should have a digg/bury system. ;-)

squirbel's avatar

Ooo.. I like that idea :P

Riser's avatar

The problem comes from psychological reimbursement. No one can prove psychological damage, they can theorize but a dishonest person can convince anyone of psychological damage, you can’t really put a price tag on that…

whereas a simple blood test proves if you are over the legal limit, or not.

Poser's avatar

The commonly held belief about the McDonald’s coffee case is that some dumbass accidentally (or otherwise) dumped hot coffee in their lap at a McD’s drive-through and saw an opportunity to make some dough. The truth is that the old woman wasn’t driving the car (she was the passenger in a stationary vehicle). The coffee was between 180–190 degrees (F) which is hot enough to cause third-degree burns in mere seconds. Third-degree burns cause actual skin damage and usually require skin grafts. She received these burns to every part of her body that you might imagine would be touched by an accidental spill in one’s lap.

McDonald’s admitted that their coffee was served too hot to be consumed immediately, and had received over 700 complaints about burns caused by their coffee. They didn’t disclose to their consumers that their coffee was served so much hotter than any other restaurant (or home-brewed coffee) and could cause such serious burns.

Whether or not the woman deserved as much money as she received (an undisclosed amount, btw) is up for debate. But this isn’t an example of a frivolous lawsuit.

boffin's avatar

I’ll answer this with an observation…
Back in the late 70’s I read or heard that by the year, I think it was around 2010 there would be one person in the legal profession for every two people in the U.S.
We as a society have become very litigious…
My view is most of these “frivolous” lawsuits is a quick buck for little work…

srmorgan's avatar

There is no question that the entire legal system in the United States is broken and will take a long time to fix. Frivolous lawsuits are only part of it.
Class action suits, a relatively new concept in law begun perhaps thirty years ago, has gone from being a tool to police corporations and protect consumers to a method to extort settlements from businesses, enrich the attorneys who have initiated the lawsuits and provide very little benefit to the injured consumer.

The situtiton is such that a mistake, even if basically harmless, can be used as a cudgel to get money out of a business. Several years ago I got a notice that I was part of a class action suit, initiated on my “behalf” because I had leased a vehicle from the leasing division of Chrysler Corporation. I read it and said so what, there was some ambiguity in the language of the lease as to how interest charges would be calculated in certain circumstances. Like most mail, I ignored it,

Later on I got a check from the administrator of the class action settlement for a DIME!

There is just a lack of common sense about things lately. Imagine the warnings that go on products in order to prevent litigation from idiots who don’t have the common sense to read a label and know how to use a product safely without copious warnings.

Ever hear about the idiots who bought liquid dish detergent with a picture of a lemon on the front and drank it as lemonade?

Don’t get me started.


rss's avatar

Yes and sometimes yes. I think overall our legal system serves its purpose – that is, giving many persons an opportunity to recover in situations where they would otherwise be screwed. That being said, there are some people who will abuse ANY system (think: welfare), but that doesn’t mean the system is inherently flawed or wrong. I also think that the US (as opposed to other civil law countries) relies a whole lot on our precedent system instead of creating other ways for people to “make themselves whole” through statue or other methods of recourse.

2. Filing a lawsuit is very expensive (attorney fees, lots of time spent, etc) and most people are not getting big payouts for silly things. We hear about stuff like this because it’s novel, not the norm. There is also an express rule to avoid frivolous lawsuits which penalize the attorneys who bring them.

I will freely admit that I am currently learning The Law, so maybe I’m biased. :)

srmorgan's avatar

@rss – yes, but the Bar has a real problem with filing of frivolous lawsuits particularly by prisoners, of all people. There is one slimehead I read about recently who has sued dozens of legislators, celebrities and even Justices of the Supreme Court, all baseless and ridiculous, but the legal system has to accept the suits and then kick them out as frivolous and endure this endless stream of lawsuits.

There is a segment of the bar that is engaged in speculative litigation, much of it in class action lawsuits but in other types of lawsuits as well. As I said before, what was intended to be a tool to protect consumers has been transformed to a tool of extortion.
I am a businessman and perhaps my opinion is skewed. Luckily we have never been the object of a lawsuit but the costs and the amount of management time involved in defending yourself and dealing with endless discovery by opponent’s counsel is said to be a horror.
It’s gotten to the point that the first thing attorneys advise you is let’s figure a way to keep this out of litigation because the costs of defense are far worse than the cost of a settlement might be.

I won’t go on about the crappy laws that our Congress enacts. Many times the intent is fine if not noble, but then when you put the law into practice, the ambiguity of the way a law is worded can open a minefield where you don’t know where to step for fear that you might trigger an explosion. I am running on here, but think of the issues with the Amercans with Disabilities Act or the Family Medical Leave Act. Was it the intention of Congress that FMLA would apply to people with the flu or a hangnail?

Sorry for the verbosity but this is something that really rankles me and I don’t understand why the bright minds in Washington (or the lesser lights in the various state legislatures) don’t see this. I am not trying to be overtly political here, my own politics might surprise a reader based on this rant, but in practical matters dealing with the laws as written is a %&^%*&^ mess.


livefastdiefun777's avatar

Abused… I was in Westwood and was sued for farting near a guy.

Jessdeb's avatar

It depends who you are asking. If you ask an attorney or an insurance company, I’m sure you will get two different answers.

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