You’re Damned if You Don’t Understand that Anyone Can Sue You.

Posted: March 15, 2011 in Lawsuits

Yes. That is always my answer to a business owner’s question about whether their employee or competitor can sue them. Yes. Anyone can sue a person or a business for anything. Anyone with the $275 filing fee for the Superior Court and a drafted complaint (even handwritten) can file a lawsuit. Contrary to what some might expect, neither the judge nor anyone else at the court is going to automatically read the complaint upon filing; it will only be read if there is a particular purpose to do so, such as to assess jurisdiction or if a motion is being heard. The recently publicized case about an administrative law judge suing a dry cleaner for millions of dollars for a lost pair of pants is an example of this. It’s also an example of how meritless suits will not survive in the long term, but will cost the defending party greatly in legal fees to have the case thrown out of court. And don’t count on getting your attorneys’ fees paid by the party that sued you on a claim without merit. Other than some particular statutes that apply only in certain circumstances, you will not get your legal fees back in Massachusetts (or in most other states). This is the stark reality of the legal system, and a cost of doing business for businesses that are sued.

What is the lesson? Avoid making enemies of your employees, business partners and competitors. People rarely sue unless they are angry and feel mistreated.

By Adam P. Whitney, 617.338.7000.

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