A Run on the Courts

Ms. Faye Riva Cohen
November 7, 2012 — 823 views  

I recently heard on the radio a story about a woman and her young child who were kicked off of a bus because the child had a seriously smelly diaper. They were on the way to see the pediatrician because the child had a stomach virus. The bus company defended the driver’s actions, stating that he acted in the interest of the safety and comfort of the other passengers, who had complained about the odor.

Although I can sympathize with both sides in this tale, and with the mother’s comments that being tossed off the bus made her feel like crap (appropriately said), I don’t sympathize with the mother’s next statement that she was going to sue.  Of course she is going to sue.  Every day lawyers hear from people who want to sue some person, company, school, government entity, etc., etc.  The rallying cry for these people is that something is unfair and that someone or some institution should be sued. Some of these people promise that the lawyer will make millions of dollars on their case, if the lawyers first provide their services for free and assume huge costs.

Aside from the substantial costs to bring and defend a lawsuit, which is one of the main reasons most cases are settled before a trial, there is also the strong possibility that one side will lose. Regardless of how wonderful it seems one’s case is, there is still only a 50% chance of winning.  And sometimes, if one loses, filing fees and legal fees of the opposing party’s lawyer are tacked on. Even if one wins, the other side can appeal 1, 2, or 3 levels higher in the legal system, leading to even higher costs and a lengthier time for a decision. This can often span years. The justice system is not for the weak of heart or the poor of coin. But, even more important, everything that happens doesn’t always have a legal remedy, and even if it has a legal remedy, that remedy often requires that specific elements must be proven. And even if the specific elements are proven, it doesn’t mean that there are valid damages. Unless the mother above can prove that her child’s illness worsened after they were kicked off the bus, or that she couldn’t take another bus or find other means of transportation she could take to see the doctor, I think that she will have a hard time providing that she suffered damages. That doesn’t mean that the bus company won’t pay her something to avoid the unwanted media attention and for her inconvenience.

But, I don’t get the feeling that her main interest is proving her case; instead her main interest is calling the news media to express her outrage about her situation which she obviously feels outweighs the rights of the other passengers to enjoy their ride and not be exposed to illness.

There have been several cases which I have turned down where large verdicts were decided after other lawyers accepted the cases. But, all of these verdicts were either substantially reduced or overturned after 5-10 years of litigation.  Lawyers generally trust their guts on which cases they will succeed with, and despite some people criticizing lawyers for discouraging them from going heading into a disastrous legal battle, after they have fallen over the legal cliff, hopefully they will learn to respect the opinion of people who fight in the legal fields daily.

Ms. Faye Riva Cohen

Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C.

I am Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire and am a Philadelphia attorney who has been practicing law since 1974. I am the president and managing attorney of both the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C. and Legal Research, Inc.