Don't laugh, lawsuit abuse runs rampant around the country 

"Nice small business you have there.”

“Um, thanks. Who are you? What’s this?”

“I’m a trial lawyer. I’m serving you with a lawsuit for $100,000.”

“What? How can that be?”

“My client slipped and fell in your restaurant last Tuesday and broke his hip.”

“But we were closed last Tuesday.”

“I’ll concede that there might be some dispute over the facts, and that could come out in an expensive, lengthy court battle. But look, I’m willing to settle now and get it over with. For $7,000, I’ll just go away.”

“This is extortion! You can’t possibly think you’ll get away with this. I’ll fight you in court!”

“Well, you’ll need a lawyer. It might cost you $7,000 just to respond to my suit and seek dismissal. Then there could be expensive depositions, you’ll have to pay stenographers, court costs — well, I’m sure you can do the math. I know I can — CHA-CHING!”

“This is a frivolous suit! I’ll file a grievance against you with the judge. I’ll have your law license!”

“If you’d like to file a grievance, you have to file it with me, not with the judge. Then I have 21 days to withdraw my lawsuit. If I do, then the court sees it as no harm, no foul. That’s called the ‘safe harbor’ rule. So why pay an expensive lawyer to draft a motion for sanctions against me and respond to my lawsuit when you could just pay me now and probably save some money?”


“If you think you’re frustrated now, just wait until I tell the jury about how my client has five children, and how he can’t work now because you carelessly left your floor wet after mopping. I can probably come up with a few witnesses who will say you were open last Tuesday — at least for part of the day — or that they saw the ‘OPEN’ sign displayed in the window. You might even lose the case. So would you like to settle, or shall I start measuring your
restaurant for new drapes?”

“This can’t be legal!”

“Oh, it’s legal. In fact, it’s federal law, and our state’s rules of civil procedure mirror the federal ones, as do many states. A long time ago, the federal rules would have made this impossible. I could have been forced to pay the entire cost of your legal defense. But they loosened the rules back in 1993 because we trial lawyers have a strong lobby.

“Someone has to change this!”

“Republicans in Congress are trying to change back to the old rules about frivolous suits, but don’t get your hopes up, kid. There is absolutely no way President Barack Obama is going to sign their bill, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, or LARA. We trial lawyers give about 99 percent of our donations to Democrats, and we give a lot of money. Vice President Joe Biden once said that along with the unions, we’re the only thing separating him and his party from the barbarians. No offense, but I think that makes you one of the barbarians.”

“I had this dream of setting up my own restaurant and making a living for my family. And now you’re here threatening to take it all away unless I pay you off.”

“Aw, don’t start crying, kid. Listen, I know it’s hard to be a small-business owner, but it often works out. Just look at me! I had a dream of setting up a small business, my own personal-injury law firm. And here I am, raking it in and living the good life!”

“Who do I make the check out to? You, jerk?”

“That’s Jerk, Esquire, to you.”

David Freddoso is The Washington Examiner’s online opinion editor.

About The Author

David Freddoso

David Freddoso came to the Washington Examiner in June 2009, after serving for nearly two years as a Capitol Hill-based staff reporter for National Review Online. Before writing his New York Times bestselling book, The Case Against Barack Obama, he spent three years assisting Robert Novak, the legendary Washington... more
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