Stub your toe? Sue somebody!
I have issues with ambulance-chasing lawyers. It’s just wrong to go around suggesting to people who’ve suffered some sort of accidental injury or harm that they should sue someone over it. To hear these lawyers tell it, there’s no such thing as an accident; it has to have been someone’s negligence, someone’s fault, and that someone should be made to pay. And they, the lawyers, seem to have no trouble finding clients who think, hey, sure I know it was an accident, but here’s a chance to make some money by suing someone, somebody with lots of money. They or their insurance company can afford it, right?
For example, there’s an ad about some man who fell off a ladder at work. The attorney is saying that man ought to sue the construction company. But why? The man lost his balance and fell off a ladder. Happens all the time. Nobody from the company was there pushing him off the ladder or pulling his feet out from under him. It wasn’t a cheap ladder with some kind of structural defect. Sometimes accidents just happen. And maybe the man himself was at fault for not positioning the ladder properly or for leaning too far. But there’s that lawyer saying the man should sue somebody anyway.
Here at home, if I trip over a dog toy lying on the floor, it’s because I’m a lousy housekeeper, an inattentive klutz, and a dog owner. I’ve got no grounds to sue the toy maker, the guys who built the house and laid the carpet, or the organization that let me adopt the dog. Maybe I should go after the company that made my slippers because my footing was insecure. That’s the ticket! Sue the slipper manufacturer. Or the company that sold the slippers. Somebody must have been responsible for my fall. And those poor lawyers won’t get any money if I don’t sue somebody. Besides, they’re doing society a service. After all, we’ve got to protect each other from slipshod slipper-makers.
Certainly negligence exists in the world. Certainly negligence and wanton disregard for the safety of others should be punished. Examples should be made, punishment meted out, compensation paid. But lawyers who make a business of drumming up and filing unwarranted “creative” lawsuits by appealing to our worst instincts of greed and revenge, just so they can earn commissions, are truly the dregs of society.
These “stand-up guys” are only standing up for themselves. One well-known local attorney has been sued and sanctioned several times for filing major lawsuits and then, instead of fighting for the maximum settlement for his clients (for amounts he suggested he could win for them), urging them to settle for a minimum amount just so he could collect his fee and move on to the next case. It wasn’t about fighting long and hard for an injured client; it was about settling as many cases (and collecting as many fees) as fast as possible.
As I said in another recent post, such cases clog our courts and make it more difficult for legitimate cases to be heard in a timely manner. They cost all of us in one way or another: lost wages, wasted time, damaged reputations, increased insurance premiums, higher costs for products and services, businesses and services driven out of business or never started at all. You hear all the time about so-and-so being sued; you rarely hear or remember later that so-and-so was exonerated or the case tossed out of court. The mere filing of the suit was enough to damage the reputation.
I’ve never understood why lawyers don’t police their own and disbar or sanction colleagues who behave unethically. They hurt the image of the entire profession.
Having the legal right to do something doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing to do.