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What is a Frivolous Lawsuit?

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The frivolous lawsuit definition is any lawsuit that is filed with the intention of disturbing, annoying, or harassing the opposite party. It can also be defined as any lawsuit where the plaintiff understands that there is little to no chance of a successful lawsuit if pursued in a courtroom.

Every year, many frivolous lawsuits are filed under personal injury laws. All of these lawsuits tend to waste money and time for individuals and the courts. Frivolous lawsuits are also referred to as “frivolous litigation.”

Frivolous Lawsuit Examples

The most famous frivolous lawsuit is about Stella Liebeck in 1992. She ordered a coffee from McDonald’s, and while she was in her nephew’s car, which was pulled off to the side so Liebeck could put sugar in her coffee, she spilled her coffee – which burned her legs. She suffered third-degree burns over six percent of her body. She originally went after McDonald’s for $20,000 in damages, but McDonald’s wouldn’t settle in court.

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McDonald’s made a big mistake by not settling in court. Liebeck was rewarded with $200,000 in compensatory damages, which was then lowered to $160,000 after the court found her to be at least 20 percent at fault. She was also rewarded $2.7 million in punitive damages.

Another example is of Gregory Roach and Gordon Falker in 1988. These two carpet layers were burned severely when a carpet adhesive, three-and-a-half-gallons worth, ignited when a water heater that was sitting next to turned on.

Both men both thought that the warning label included on the back of the product was insufficient. The words like “flammable” and “keep away from heat” didn’t warn them about the explosion. They filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the adhesive, Para-Chem. After the case was taken to court, the jury agreed that the warning label was insufficient and awarded the men $8 million for their troubles.

How to Stop a Frivolous Lawsuit

If you want to stop a frivolous lawsuit, you must get in contact with an experienced lawyer who can advise you on the best way to get through the lawsuit. Most times, the wisest option is to settle outside of the court by offering a small compensation or by apologizing to find a way to resolve the problem – even when you weren’t at fault.

However, if you feel that the case isn’t one that can be easily solved outside of court, then go ahead and start working with your lawyer to get the lawsuit figured out. Remember that the law may make the prevailing party pay your attorney fees if it’s found that they are suing in bad faith. If you’re being threatened with an illegal lawsuit, the right legal representation can help protect your rights.

Fighting Frivolous Cases

If you’re the target of a lawsuit that you feel is frivolous, you have to defend yourself effectively. You should never assume that a judge will discover the weaknesses of the defense or the case.

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There are, however, several things that you can do to help fight against a frivolous lawsuit. These options depend on the nature of the case, your attorney fee budget, and the applicable law. Here are just a few things that you can do:

  • Ask the court to dismiss the case: At an appropriate time, you can request that the case be dismissed before it comes to trial. Lawyers refer to these requests as “motions for summary judgment.” When you do this, lawyers will take the time to organize the claims in the lawsuit and then compare them to applicable laws and facts. By doing this analysis, the motion can be explained to the court in writing why the case should be dismissed outright because it has no merit.
  • Seek to recover costs, where the law allows: Lawyers know which laws would allow for the taxation of costs. This is where the winning party can recover certain expenses and costs from the losing party. The money benefit might be small, but you would still have the satisfaction of imposing an added expense on the losing party.
  • Bring a claim for “abuse of process”: If you think that the lawsuit in question was brought against you for improper purposes, you might be able to claim “abuse of process” against the party that sued you. Your lawyer will talk more about this with you when the time comes.
  • Counter suing for a frivolous lawsuit: After the lawsuit has been defeated, you have the option of suing for “malicious prosecution.” This means that you’re bringing a countersuit for a frivolous lawsuit against the party that sued you originally. To bring forth a valid case of malicious prosecution, you usually have to show proof that the suit was brought against you with malice and had no probable cause. If you sue for a frivolous lawsuit, make sure that you are working closely with a lawyer that understands how the process works.

Frivolous Lawsuit Penalties

Some penalties come with filing a frivolous lawsuit, including monetary fines. How much you’ll pay in fines varies depending on the type of claim involved and your geographic location where you took the case.

Some judges can even issue a contempt order, which claims that the lawsuit is a waste of judicial resources.

There are some cases where criminal consequences can happen, especially if one of the parties is harassing the other by filing multiple lawsuits. However, the most common thing to have happened with frivolous lawsuits is that they will be dismissed shortly after entering the court without more examination of the matter.

Final Thoughts

Frivolous lawsuits can be incredibly annoying, especially when they’re brought about for malicious reasons.

Do you think that you have been accused of a frivolous lawsuit? If so, you might want to consider hiring a lawyer so that they can help you get the case dismissed. There are several things that they can do to help you win the case and get it dismissed from court.

If you have more legal questions, you can also chat online with a Laws101.com attorney where you’ll be instantly connected to a lawyer who can give you legal guidance on your specific case or question.

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