A wise philosopher once said: “I went bankrupt twice in my life; the first time when I lost a lawsuit, the second time when I won.”
I couldn’t have said it better. In most cases, the only winners in lawsuits are the lawyers, who get paid, no matter whether they win or lose. Here are 5 things to consider before you ever think of suing anyone.
1. Lawsuits take a lot of time.
Even if you sue in Small Claims Court, it will typically take 1-2 years before your matter is heard. There will be a lot of time spent on preparing and filing documents, attending settlement hearings and finally the trial. How do you feel before going to traffic court to fight a speeding ticket? Stressed out? Multiply that by 100 when it comes to how you will feel throughout any court proceeding.
2. Even if you win, you may not collect anything
Even if you win your lawsuit, there is no guarantee that you will collect anything, especially if the person you are suing ends up having no money. In the meantime, you still have to pay the lawyer or paralegal who was working for you. Before suing anyone, make sure they have a job so that you can at least try to go after part of their wages if you are successful in court.
3. It is not easy to sue lawyers or real estate agents
Many unhappy buyers and sellers contact me for advice about suing their real estate agent or lawyer as a result of a bad experience buying or selling real estate. You must remember that real estate agents and lawyers are both protected by errors and omissions insurance policies. What this means is that if you sue them, their legal costs will be paid by the insurance company. In the meantime, you have to pay a lawyer right away to get started with your lawsuit. I have seen many litigation lawyers ask for a minimum of $5-10,000, up front, just to get started on a lawsuit.
4. Beware of social media
I have written about many real estate related court decisions over the years, primarily to educate buyers, sellers and investors as to how to be properly prepared so that they do not make the same mistakes themselves. However, when you write about a case, you also mention the people who are involved. I have received many complaints from people who have either lost or even won a lawsuit, because of the negative feedback they have received as a result of their case being mentioned on the internet. For example, a distinguished professor wrote to me that although they had achieved many awards in their career, the first thing anyone now sees when they google the professor’s name is the negative portrayal in my article. In another case, the winner of a case started receiving hate mail from readers, who thought they acted unethically even though they actually won their case.
Remember, once you sue and there is a decision, it can be made public for the whole world to see via the internet.
5. The worst settlement is better than the best lawsuit
In my opinion, if you have the opportunity to settle any lawsuit, take it. The settlement will typically remain confidential, so no one will learn about the case and most important, you will be able to put the matter behind you. There is no such thing as a bad settlement.
Think twice before suing anyone. It is usually not worth it.
My Law Practice
I have received many inquiries about my law practice, providing legal services to real estate buyers, sellers and investors. Working with Real Property Transaction Centres, I am now able to close real estate transactions throughout the GTA. If you require any assistance on a transaction that you are working on, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you or your clients are looking for a written quote, please visit www.realproperty.ca and search under “How much does it cost” or contact Suzanne at 1-877- 219-9618, ext. 231.
About Mark Weisleder
Mark is a lawyer, author, instructor, Toronto Star columnist and keynote speaker for the real estate industry.