According to Merriam Webster, the term Litigate was first used in 1615. Deriving from the Latin word meaning “to go to law”, litigate means to carry on a legal contest by judicial process. A right to a trial by jury is one of the most fundamental American rights. That being said, however, the vulnerability of businesses to unwarranted legal attacks exposing them to significant financial risk is illustrated by the following real cases:
1. Pearson v. Chung
A D.C. administrative law judge sued his neighborhood dry cleaners for $54 million over a pair of lost pants. The trouble began over a $10.50 dry cleaning bill for a pair of prized pants. That figure ballooned to $67 million dollars, but Pearson amended his request seeking only $54 million. While questioning himself on the witness stand about his experience with the missing pair of pants, he broke down in tears and had to take a break from his testimony. Korean immigrants Soo and Jin Chung and their son, who own Custom Cleaners, were forced to defend themselves against this lawsuit for two years. The judge lost his case and probably his job. He was not reappointed. No surprise there!
2. Overton v. Anheuser Busch Co.
When Richard Overton’s fantasy of beaches, babes and booze did not come true, he did what any red blooded American boy would do - he sued. In 1991, he sued Anheuser-Busch for $10,00;, citing false and misleading advertising that allegedly caused him emotional distress, mental injury and financial loss. Why you ask? Overton said the company's ads, which depicted beer's magical ability to facilitate "scenic tropical settings and beautiful women and men engaged in endless and unrestricted merriment" turned out to be "untrue." Who knew? The case was dismissed. But that didn’t stop Overton. He appealed! Thankfully, the dismissal was upheld.
3. Liebeck v. McDonald’s Corporation
Of course, we all know about the “killer coffee”. 79 year old Stella Liebeck, sitting in the passenger seat of her parked car holding the 49¢ cup of coffee between her legs, she pulled off the tightly secured lid, tilting the cup in the process, causing the contents to spill onto her lap. (There’s a surprise!) Her third-degree burns required skin grafts and two years of treatment. After attempting to settle with McDonald's for $20,000 to cover her medical costs, Liebeck brought the case to court in 1994 when the fast-food giant countered by offering her just $800. A media frenzy erupted after a jury awarded Liebeck $160,000 in compensatory damages and $2.7 million in punitive damages! Rather than appeal, McDonald's and Liebeck reached an undisclosed settlement.
4. Jack Ass v Viacom International, Inc.
A Montana electrical lineman named Jack Ass (yes, that’s his legal name) sued Viacom for $10,000,000.00 for “plagiarizing” and “defaming” his good name. In 1997, Jack Ass had legally changed his name as part of a movement to raise awareness about drunk driving. While watching TV in his tiny one room “Jack Shack”, Mr. Ass had stumbled upon the MTV show "Jackass." Offended by a show that depicted young men doing idiotic things, such as snorting lines of wasabi and eating “snow pees”, Mr. Ass registered his displeasure by, what else -- filing his lawsuit. The show's stars were unperturbed saying "I can't wait to get served the papers. What could be more American than just suing the living sh*& out of someone for no reason at all?" The case was eventually dismissed.
5. Trina Cherisse Thompson v. Monroe College, The Office of Career Advancement
In a new twist on the “class action” lawsuit, 27-year-old Trina Thompson unsuccessfully struggled to land a job since getting her business degree from the for-profit Monroe College in Brooklyn, New York in April 2009. Instead of blaming the recession for her unemployment, she filed a lawsuit against her school to recoup the $70,000 she spent on a bachelor's degree in information technology. Her claims -- the school's Office of Career Advancement failed miserably at helping her advance her career. Not only does she seek return of her full tuition, Ms. Thompson’s complaint also asks for an additional $2,000 to compensate her for the stress of her futile three-month job search. Monroe College’s judgment? No one can guarantee a job in this economy. Sounds more like the school of hard knocks!
As you can see, lawsuits happen and when they do, you have no choice but to defend. Our strategic, preventative approach combined with tenacious courtroom skills strongly position your business to fend off the attacks.