In the United States, frivolous litigation is defined as the practice of starting or carrying on lawsuits that have no legal merit or factual basis, and therefore have little chance of winning in court. These types of lawsuits are typically to harass, annoy, embarrass or intimidate the target of the suit. The people who file frivolous lawsuits know that their case has no legal basis.
Unfortunately, frivolous lawsuits are easy to file because everyone has the right to sue. However, even though frivolous cases are easy to file, they are not easy to win. The practice of filing frivolous lawsuits is also known as frivolous litigation and it is taken very seriously within our legal system.
Some common characteristics of a frivolous suit to look out for:
- No legal merit under the law – Usually a frivolous claim is made obvious by the total lack of logic or fact behind the claim. The filer thinks they can manipulate the legal system and use it.
- Messy – Sometimes a lawyer filing a frivolous claim submits a lot of paperwork or complicated arguments to intimidate the other party into taking action. They probably have no intention of actually taking the case to trial.
- Outlandish demands – Sometimes the plaintiff will make extreme demands, like requesting an exorbitant amount of money, that demonstrates pretty clearly it is a frivolous case.
- Serial filer – Often times the plaintiff has a history of filing more than one “crazy” or frivolous case. Obviously, you need to watch out for these types of cases.
Our Las Vegas law firm understands how to navigate frivolous lawsuits and a range of personal injury cases; from drunk driving accidents to boating accidents, to dog bites and more. Anthem Injury Lawyers encourages you to contact us for a free initial consultation. Call us at (702) 857-6000 today.
Why are Frivolous Lawsuits Filed?
There are a wide range of frivolous lawsuits since anyone can sue over anything (but they might not make it to court since our legal system has protective measures in place). Since the courts have ways to detect frivolous claims early on, frivolous suits are usually thrown out.
Sometimes a frivolous lawsuit is actually filed in good faith. Since the definition of “good faith” can be subjective, Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that an attorney perform a due diligence investigation in regards to the factual basis for any claim. However, for the most part, frivolous claims are filed knowingly.
What are some examples of frivolous lawsuits?
- Perhaps a person is unsatisfied with a product or service that they received. If they file a lawsuit against the small business or manufacturer and claim a defective product, even if the product or service is not defective, this would be frivolous. This type of case arises in the product liability court.
- In other cases, someone may file a frivolous lawsuit to delay another type of legal proceeding. For instance, if someone is involved in real estate proceedings but they file a frivolous lawsuit, this will delay any real estate actions.
- Another type of frivolous lawsuit involves premises liability claims. For example, a person might have a grudge against their neighbor and file a false claim to harass or inconvenience them into taking action.
Famous Frivolous Lawsuit Cases
In order to better understand what a frivolous lawsuit looks like, it may help to look at a few examples. Some of these are filed by major high-profile companies, which may surprise you.
- A Utah woman sued Google because she claimed Google Maps advised her to walk on the freeway to get to her destination, which then caused her to get hit by a car. She sued Google for $100,000 along with the driver of the car who hit her.
- A Fear Factor fan sued NBC $2.5 million after watching a particularly gruesome episode where contestants ate rats whipped up in a blender. He said watching this episode caused his blood pressure to rise and caused him to get disoriented, vomit and hit a wall. The judge ultimately threw out the case.
- A 57-year old woman sued Universal Studios for $15,000 after visiting their annual Halloween Horror Nights haunted house. She claimed to have experienced emotional distress because the haunted house was too scary.
- Two PETA members sued the Division of Fish and Wildlife in New Jersey after they hit a deer crossing the road. PETA claimed that the recent deer management program increased the deer population for hunting season.
- Kellogg’s sued Exxon Mobile because it believed the Exxon tiger looked too similar to their Tony the Tiger. Though Kellogg may have had a point—because they waited over 30 years to file the claim—it was deemed frivolous.
Perhaps the most famous example that is given of a frivolous case is that of the 79-year-old woman Stella Liebeck who sued McDonald’s after she spilled hot coffee on her lap and was awarded $2.86 million dollars by a jury. But was this truly a frivolous suit?
- Ms. Liebeck suffered third-degree burns in her pelvic region when she accidentally spilled hot coffee in her lap. She was hospitalized for eight days while she underwent skin grafting, followed by two years of medical treatment.
- Ms. Liebeck asked for $20,000 to cover her medical expenses and lost income. McDonald’s never offered her more than $800.
- At trial, it was revealed that McDonald’s operations manual required the franchisee to hold its coffee at 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Coffee at that temperature, if spilled, causes third-degree burns in three to seven seconds. McDonald’s knew about this risk but did not warn its customers.
While some cite the McDonald’s coffee case as a prime example of frivolous litigation, others see it as a meaningful lawsuit that held a corporation responsible for its actions.
When it comes to possible consequences from the actions of individuals or companies, you need an expert personal injury law firm on your side. Anthem Injury Lawyers serves Las Vegas and the surrounding area with professionalism and compassion. Schedule your free initial consultation today. Call us at (702) 857-6000 now.
The consequences of frivolous suits can be serious, causing thousands of dollars in attorney fees, legal fees and a lot of stress:
- Financial Loss – If someone files a frivolous suit against you, you may end up wasting money hiring lawyers, lost wages, or paying for legal advice. If you file a frivolous lawsuit you could be fined hundreds or thousands of dollars. Any countersuits will be an additional drain on financial resources.
- Distress – Victims of frivolous lawsuits spend time and energy thinking about the case.
- Contempt Order – If a court decides to hold a frivolous litigant in contempt of court, they must obey the court’s orders or face consequences which can even include jail time.
- Criminal Charges – If the frivolous lawsuit is proven to have caused significant harm to the parties involved, the court may deem the pursuit of such a suit a criminal act.
Getting caught up in a frivolous lawsuit can eat up time, money, and energy. If someone files a frivolous suit against you, you can use the following tactics:
- Filing a motion to dismiss – If you cannot negotiate a settlement, then you or your attorney can file a motion to dismiss the case in court.
- Filing counterclaims – If you can’t get the case dismissed, then you could file counterclaims such as abuse of process or fraud.
- Pursuing vexatious litigants – In some states, a person or entity can be declared as a vexatious litigant, which requires them to get a judge’s approval before they can file future lawsuits.
Experienced Las Vegas Personal Injury Lawyers
If you or a family member has been injured by another party, you should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you protect your rights.
An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to help you navigate the legal process and prevent you from filing a frivolous lawsuit.
If you are looking for a law firm with experienced personal injury attorneys in the Las Vegas Area, contact Anthem Injury Lawyers today. Our phone number is (702) 857-6000. We offer Free Consultations.