Frivolous Lawsuits: What Are They and How Do They Affect You?
Colorado injury lawyer Mack Babcock talks about the problem of frivolous lawsuits, responsible tort law, and why it matters
The United States has one of the best judiciary systems in the world, but to say it is without any flaws would be a mistake. One of the key indicators of this imperfection is the presence of frivolous lawsuits within our court systems.
A frivolous lawsuit is a lawsuit filed by an attorney who knowingly brings a case forward despite a lack of legal precedent, facts, or merit.
Examples of frivolous lawsuits might be:
- The 1995 incident when an inmate sued himself for violating his own civil rights. He had hoped the state would have to pay due to his incarceration.
- The man who allegedly looked like Michael Jordan and sued the basketball star and Nike in 2006 because of damages that incurred due to people mistaking him for the celebrity athlete.
- A woman who sued two girls in Durango for medical bills that related to a stress-induced panic attack that came after the girls delivered cookies to her home.
Frivolous lawsuits such as these, though sometimes humorous to read about, actually have many negative effects. These cases take up court time and resources and can have a negative impact on the lives of those being sued, particularly individuals and small businesses who aren’t expecting to pay legal fees and give up time in court.
One of the main reasons frivolous lawsuits exist in the U.S. court system today is because of a 1993 amendment to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures. The amendment gave leeway to attorneys who present frivolous lawsuits in court, allowing a 21-day period for attorneys to withdraw a frivolous lawsuit penalty-free after being challenged in court.
The amendment protects attorneys and plaintiffs; however, it leaves defendants of frivolous lawsuits vulnerable throughout the 21-day period. During those 3 weeks, individuals and small businesses who find themselves on the defense against a frivolous lawsuit may incur legal charges or damage to their reputation during that time.
Frivolous lawsuits within the U.S. tort system are also thought to hurt the overall economy. A lot of money is spent on the tort system. Most of these tort lawsuits are legal and justified, but the increase in tort law expenditures since the 1990s is alarming. In fact, statistics in 2009 revealed that almost $250 billion was spent on tort lawsuits. Ensuring that attorneys file tort lawsuits responsibly could spare economic damages to individuals, small businesses, and to the economy as a whole.
In the last year, the U.S. House of Representatives brought forth the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2015. This resolution passed in the House and is currently awaiting a vote from the Senate. If successful, the act will amend Rule 11 to make attorneys more accountable for filing frivolous lawsuits.
It is important for attorneys to practice responsible tort law and to choose their cases based on substantial legal precedents. This will ensure that only deserving plaintiffs get court time and unfairly accused defendants (and the economy) will not be negatively affected by frivolous lawsuits.
The Babcock Law Firm seeks to make positive impacts within the legal community. We only choose cases that have legal merit and with fight to resolve deserving plaintiff’s pleas. Learn more about our practice and law offices by reading how representation works.
While the Babcock Law Firm tirelessly works to obtain successful outcomes for its clients, prior positive outcomes are no guarantee of future success. Indicating prior positive results is in no way intended to guarantee future results.