3 Legal Tips for Dealing With Frivolous Lawsuits Against Your Small Business
There are some lawsuits that businesses just cannot avoid. Unfortunately, the most unavoidable lawsuits are the frivolous ones. Fortunately, the law and the courts provide a means to detect and dismiss frivolous claims early on, before a defendant is forced to spend significant money on defending a meritless claim.
What Is a Frivolous Lawsuit?
A frivolous lawsuit is one where the filer has no legal or factual basis for their claim, but the claim is filed and pursued regardless. Generally, frivolous filers are not going to listen to logic, or act rationally, or act according to the law. They may make demands for fictitiously large sounding dollar amounts, and make claims that relate to clearly delusional or completely fictional or fraudulent claims.
Here are the three best ways to deal with frivolous lawsuits:
1. File a Motion to Dismiss ASAP
While you will want your attorney to reach out to the plaintiff or their attorney to try to negotiate a dismissal, once that is unsuccessful, the next step should be filing a motion to dismiss. Failing to file a responsive pleading with the court can subject you to a costly default. Typically, anyone can file any claim with the court. Once a claim is filed, the other side can challenge that claim. If there is no legal basis, or factual merit to a claim, it can often be dismissed before an answer to the complaint is filed.
2. File Counterclaims
If you are successful with getting a frivolous lawsuit dismissed, you may be able to file a claim for abuse of process, fraud, or another civil claim relating to frivolous lawsuit.
Filing counterclaims may not always be a good idea. Sometimes it is just throwing good money after bad, as the saying goes, because even if you win, anything you win may be uncollectable.
3. Pursue Vexatious Litigants
In the state of California, if a business has been sued by the same individual or entity repeatedly for meritless or frivolous claims, and has repeatedly won against the frequent filer, the state legislature has provided a way to get somewhat permanent relief. Under California law, a person or entity can be declared as a vexatious litigant, which would require them to get the approval of a judge before they could file any lawsuits in the future. The state courts maintain a publicly available list of all individuals declared vexatious.
Interesting Lawsuit of the Month- Woman Reaches Into Lion’s Cage, Loses Finger, Sues Zoo
One would think that “don’t pet lions” is in the same league of advice as “don’t take your toaster in the bathtub,” but for one Michigan woman, the thrill of petting a real-life lion was too much temptation.
Ranae Ferguson was visiting Sunrise Side Nature Trail and Exotic Park when she decided to reach inside a lion’s cage, resulting in the partial loss of her middle finger. Ferguson says she learned the hard way that getting close to the ferocious carnivore isn’t the brightest idea, but insists she’s not to blame.
Ferguson plans to sue Sunrise Side Nature Trail for alleged negligence. Ferguson told the local station “I would like to see more precautions taken to protect the people as well as the animals,” However, the park’s staff has stated that Ferguson was asked to step back, but ignored their warnings as well as several posted signs around the park.
She says the business owners asked her not to tell anyone about the attack and is now concerned for the safety of other patrons. But the owners of Sunrise Side Nature Trail and Exotic Park have a different story. “The lady went into the security area and was told by the guide to get back and the lady stated she wanted to touch the lion and continued, against the guide’s warning, to put her finger inside the fence and the lion nipped the end of her finger,”
The zoo owners say Ferguson should have paid attention to the warning signs and bite signs that are posted throughout the park, and listened to the employee who compelled her not the touch the lion.
While the courts will decide the validity of the circumstances, one has to think that treating an animal nicknamed “king of the jungle” like a household pet is not a wise decision.
Quote of the Month
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”-Sun Tzu