You’re expected to be engaged in frivolous litigation when you show up in court without a lawyer, especially when you’re the defendant.
If you’ve ever read the small print on the back of a traffic or parking ticket, you’ve had to weigh the cost of the ticket against the cost of fighting it. I’ve seen threats of court costs as high as $500. That’s the bullying tactic cities use to force folks to pay up – guilty or not – because the courts assume your defense is frivolous.
The same is true when defending unpaid debt lawsuits. Defendants are often summoned to court in droves and lectured on the costs they might incur by fighting the lawsuit. They are advised by judges to step into the hall and negotiate payment plans with the creditor’s lawyer because they can’t possibly have a legal defense to the claim.
What is Frivolous Litigation?
The best description of frivolous lawsuits comes from Wikipedia:
Frivolous litigation may be based on absurd legal theories, may involve a superabundance or repetition of motions or additional suits, may be uncivil or harassing to the court, or may claim extreme remedies. A claim or defense may be frivolous because it had no underlying justification in fact, or because it was not presented with an argument for a reasonable extension or reinterpretation of the law. A claim may be deemed frivolous because existing laws unequivocally prohibit such a claim, such as a so-called Good Samaritan law.
It’s really not that hard to avoid being frivolous. So long as the position you assert has some basis in either fact or law, you can’t be sanctioned for it by the court. Of course, there are contracts that say the loser in a suit regarding the contract is responsible for the costs of collection. In those instances, when you lose, you’ll be paying court costs and attorney fees whether your position is frivolous or not.
But if you’ve been injured or harmed and someone else is to blame for your damages, how do you tell if your case has merit? Or, when someone sues you, how do you know if their case does? That is sometimes difficult to determine. Frivolous lawsuits have no merit or legal justification. Does that help you determine if your case has merit? No.
How Do I Avoid Being Frivolous?
There is, however, at least one way to assure that your case has some merit or foot in the law. It begins with analyzing your case. In part 1 of a 2-part series, we show you how to analyze your case by connecting elements of claims or defenses with facts and connecting those to evidence. In part 2, we show you how to apply that recipe to a slip and fall scenario. This method isn’t foolproof because there are so many claims and defenses. However, if your claim or defense doesn’t cut it using this method, it might be wise to go slow or find another claim or defense.
The general advice here is to try to be reasonable. In addition to analyzing your case, check the case law to make sure your position hasn’t been thrown out of court or sanctioned in the past.
The Final Word
If you have a meritorious defense to that traffic or parking ticket or that unpaid debt lawsuit, go for it. Judges aren’t expecting a good defense nor are they expecting you to fight hard. So put some spark into their drab little lives by showing up to capably defend yourself.
Further, if you ever need to persuade a judge that your position isn’t the worst, point to this two undecillion dollar lawsuit over an alleged dog bite. Or this suit against NBC for a revolting game show challenge. Or this suit against magician David Blaine for stealing the plaintiff’s godly powers. At the end of the day, it’s all relative.
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