The potential million-dollar question. Can I sue them? Or it’s the nasty counterpart, can they sue me for this?
Most people get the picture of what a lawsuit process looks like from TV, and while Suits, Boston Legal, and Goliath are entertaining, there is more about the legal action process that you should know before you approach, and as always, this article is not meant to substitute legal advice, but a guide in questions to ask and a tool to help you feel more comfortable reaching out to an attorney.
That is the first step, finding an attorney. For my small business owners, I cannot recommend enough to have a go-to attorney who can guide you and has the know-how to handle most of your general needs, and sometimes just as importantly, has the connections to pass your case off if it is very specialized (fun fact, not every attorney learns every law ever at law school).
This rudimentary breakdown is for your average civil case in the business world, such as breach of contract, personal injury, wrongful termination, etc. Things such as intellectual property infringement have a similar but distinct process to go about pursuing a legal battle.
Generally, if you go to an attorney and say, “This person wronged me, I want to sue them.” The attorney will then ask questions and evaluate your situation. An old attorney comical question is “Yes, you can always sue, the question is can you win?”
Then if the answer is at least a maybe, an attorney might send an email, write a letter, or make a phone call inquiring about a potential settlement agreement before a lawsuit has to happen, and if this bears no fruit, well the suit begins.
To begin the suit officially, your attorney will file what is called a complaint. A complaint says this is what this person or business did to me, this is why it is against the law, and this is what kind of damages (whether monetary or otherwise) I am owed.
After the complaint is filed, the party you complained about can file an answer (basically a reply to a complaint) and can file a “motion to dismiss,” which is a legal term of art just asking to court to reject your complaint.
After this, assuming the court denies the motion, there is a phase of discovery, where both parties exchange a lot of information in preparation for trial. This is the part where your lawyer will often have to work many hours to find information and build your case.
The trial will be at a date determined by a judge, and that is when the part you’ve probably seen on TV will be apparent to you. However, it is likely that your trial will be less exciting and have fewer gasping moments.
A lawsuit can be complex and frightening for anyone, and every single legal situation is different.
An attorney is not just a man or woman in nice clothes who is supposed to charge you and have you sign some papers. The best attorneys are there to be by your side and have your back when (not if, when) you have a problem. I know plenty of attorneys that would 100% back this claim.
If you are a small business owner and have an issue that you think might be in our wheelhouse.
Written by Christian R. Dudley