Aha, I got your attention!
For years we’ve heard about crazy lawsuits that sound improbable at best and fraudulent at worst. We’ve all heard them. They generally tend to fall into two categories: (1) Stupid people who hurt themselves, get a lawyer and then sue a store or a business where the jury gives them all sorts of money for the injury that occurred at the store or on the businessman’s property; and, (2) even worse, people who commit a crime, get hurt, hire a lawyer and then hold the homeowner responsible for their injury.
You may have heard of this one – some guy breaks into a house in Palm Harbor** and steals stuff, tries to escape through the garage to discover that he can’t navigate the confines of the garage and can’t get back into the house which now locked behind him. Since the homeowners were away for a week on vacation, the burglar is stuck in there and must live on dry dog food and windshield wiper fluid. When he finally gets out he hires a lawyer to sue the homeowner and the jury awards him a gajillion dollars on some flimsy charge.
Of course, if you parse some of these cases, these stories just don’t hold up to any kind of rational thought. So this guy could break into a house but couldn’t get out of a residential garage? He couldn’t re-break into the same house he just burgled? Reputable burglars have been known to break out of actual jails, much less a garage. The fact that he didn’t sustain any injury and was in the commission of a crime didn’t deter some lawyer from taking this case who was then able to convince a jury to give him a huge award. Now, come on. People who believe this stuff want to believe it’s true. It’s all a fairly transparent attempt to make lawyers look bad.
Now, don’t get me wrong: there are lawyers in big cities, medium towns and probably even Palm Harbor who have filed a lawsuit that relied on the credibility of their client alone. However, there are legal devices that make filing frivolous lawsuits dangerous to both client and lawyer alike. Florida Statute 57.105 states that if a lawsuit is dismissed because it lacks “any justiciable issue of law or fact”, in other words, it’s unproved and improvable, not only might the Plaintiff be responsible to pay attorney’s fees to defend the case, but the Plaintiff’s lawyer might also be responsible to kick in for those fees. A client who makes up falsehoods as the basis of litigation is bad, but when an attorney fails to insure that the case has some basis in fact and files suit anyway, is just as bad.
We are fortunate in our local legal community of Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Oldsmar and New Port Richey in that we have very ethical lawyers and law firms that very much respect each other and our court system. Stories of local Palm Harbor lawyers filing lawsuits with no merit are few and far between. So, next time you hear a story of one of these tall tale legal victories, think if you were on that jury if you’d be so inclined to reward that Plaintiff. If not, there’s a good chance it is either a completely fabricated story, or else the truth of the case has been mischaracterized to the extent that it no longer bears any resemblance to the actual fact pattern of the case.
**These stories always get personalized to the speaker’s home town. This scenario never happened in Palm Harbor or anywhere else for that matter.