A frivolous lawsuit is a legal claim with no merit, that is brought forward with no intention of proving the allegations made, and has no chance of succeeding. These types of lawsuits are often seen as a form of harassment or as a way for a party to gain publicity.
When an injury lawsuit is filed, the public and defendants may feel that the case is frivolous. This negative perception often prevents victims of personal injury accidents from filing lawsuits, even when they have a serious claim.
Understanding what makes a lawsuit frivolous, and when damages justify or even require a lawsuit to resolve, is vital after suffering a personal injury. The Louisiana personal injury lawyers at Dudley DeBosier can help you determine if your claim is valid and review your legal options in a complimentary consultation.
Frivolous lawsuits can be seen as a hindrance to the legal system and a waste of valuable time and resources. They are often brought forward without credible evidence supporting the claims made by the plaintiff. Frivolous suits can also undermine the integrity of the legal system and delay the resolution of legitimate cases.
The following are characteristics typically associated with frivolous lawsuits:
- No Merit Under the Law: A frivolous lawsuit has no chance of success as it is based on a legal theory that the courts have repeatedly rejected. The lawsuit may be frivolous due to the lack of evidence or the fact that the legal theory is outdated or has been overruled by higher courts.
- Outlandish Demands: Frivolous lawsuits often involve unrealistic or unreasonable demands, such as millions of dollars in damages for a minor injury. The plaintiffs in these cases may be seeking a quick payout or trying to gain attention for their cause.
- Serial Filer: Serial lawsuit filers are individuals who repeatedly file lawsuits, often with little or no merit. These lawsuits waste time and resources of the court system and burden the defendant with legal expenses.
However, just because someone accuses you of pursuing a frivolous lawsuit following an injury does not mean that your case is actually frivolous! Many cases considered frivolous by the public or the defendant are actually completely justified when you look at the facts.
For example, in the famous 1994 case of Liebeck v. McDonald’s, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck sued McDonald’s for serving coffee that was too hot and causing her to suffer burns. The case became a symbol of excessive litigation and is often cited as an example of a frivolous lawsuit.
However, the facts of the case proved that Ms. Liebeck sustained intense third-degree burns requiring skin grafts to 6% of her body and that Mcdonald’s knew that their coffee was served 30 to 40°F hotter than the industry standard. Mcdonald’s also stated that they had no intention of changing the temperature or serving it in a more sturdy container, despite Ms. Liebeck not being the first person injured by their dangerously hot coffee, or even the first person to sue McDonalds for injuries resulting from their coffee.
Liebeck was awarded $160,000 in compensation—after having initially only asked for just enough to cover her medical expenses, which McDonalds refused—and the jury awarded her an additional $2.7 million in punitive damages.
Courts play an important role in preventing frivolous lawsuits from clogging up the legal system. The courts can dismiss frivolous cases and award sanctions against the plaintiffs or their lawyers. A judge can even refer the case to the state bar for disciplinary action in severe cases.
Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 863 outlines the provisions for frivolous lawsuits and provides for sanctions against parties who file baseless lawsuits. This law allows a court to impose sanctions, including fines, against a party who files a lawsuit without a reasonable basis in law or fact.
The goal of these provisions is to discourage the filing of frivolous lawsuits and to protect the integrity of the judicial system in Louisiana.
Why Accident Victims Should Speak to an Attorney (Even If They Are Afraid of Being Accused of Filing a Frivolous Suit)
It’s crucial for victims injured in an accident caused by another’s negligence to speak with a skilled attorney to determine if a lawsuit is justified. The claim of a frivolous lawsuit is often used as a fearmongering technique when a victim speaks out about their case to pressure the victim into not filing or settling for a lower amount than what would otherwise be offered.
Most personal injury lawsuits are not frivolous and are often the only way for victims to receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering after an accident. They also hold negligent parties liable for irresponsible or malicious behavior, such as driving while intoxicated, not maintaining safe premises, or offering negligent medical care.
If you’ve suffered damages in a personal injury case, an attorney from Dudley DeBosier can review the evidence for you in a free case consultation to determine if you have a justifiable claim. When our attorneys take on a case, that means we believe it has merit and is likely to win in court. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means we don’t receive any fees for our work unless you receive a settlement. This arrangement ensures we don’t pursue a frivolous lawsuit that wastes the court’s time or will be thrown out.
Personal injury cases are complex. While you may not consider filing a claim because you are concerned it is frivolous, it is often the only way you can recover financial losses after an accident so you are not left paying out of pocket or going into debt over someone else’s negligence.
If you or a family member has been injured, contact the personal injury attorneys at Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers for a free consultation. While the defendant may attempt to trivialize your claim as frivolous, if you believe your claim has merit, you can discuss the case facts with our experienced personal injury lawyers, who can help determine if your case is legitimate and if you are entitled to compensation.
This content has been reviewed by Chad Lederman, Director of Legal Operations at our New Orleans office.
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