Frivolous lawsuits and how to avoid them


No one wants to find themselves at the receiving end of a lawsuit, but we also should be concerned about whether we want to begin them in the first place. While we all want justice, regardless of the extent of any damage done, we also should be prepared in the best possible ways in seeking it. In the end, obtaining proper legal advice from a professional will always be the best way to go forward.

Frivolous lawsuits are very famous news stories from all over the world. Most of us know about the MacDonald’s “scalding coffee case” – yet it was not as simple in terms of being frivolous as many assume. For example, it was not immediately thrown out of court; indeed, the settlement happened – but secretly.

Time Magazine considered the most frivolous lawsuit to be one where a man tried to sue “New York City, Au Bon Pain, Hoboken University, LaGuardia Airport, the MTA, and thousands of others for, all over an alleged dog bite.” The reason it was frivolous was due to the amount his wanting: $2,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

These might be immediately obviously nonsense claims to any rational person. Yet, it’s still important to consider those times when you might need to file a claim.

In South Africa, the focus will most likely be the small claims court. This is where you’d go if, for example, you required a way to get repayment for monies you are owed. The number to keep in mind is R7 000 because anything exceeding this – in terms of, for example, property value that you’re seeking to be delivered – will heard in the Magistrates or High Court.

The small claims court is also not the place for claims against the State, based on cession or for the dissolution of marriage, among others. Too often people think that one court handles all of this, due to their lack of knowledge about how precisely they need to proceed to obtain the necessary legal intervention.

It’s essential that we all have legal cover, in the case of having to know where we stand in terms of the law – and of course in terms of being protected. After all, we live in a society governed by laws and people will and can take actions that seek to redress injustices they believe is being done – just as we can.

But to that effect, we should know what frivolous lawsuits look like – being ignorant could cost us time, money and also might dampen chances of dealing with an unjust situation effectively, should we be the ones to file claims.

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