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To Sue Or Not To Sue

To sue or not to sue – that is the question. Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles by litigating.

We live in a litigious society where people tend to sue others at the drop of a hat regarding almost anything and everything one can imagine. The media has created much of this mentality by creating heroes out of people with less than moral standards and making it seem like obtaining multi-million dollar settlements is commonplace in law. Unfortunately, not everyone wins in the legal arena and litigating a controversy is not always the right solution. A person must decide whether to proceed through the court systems or cut their losses and leave well enough alone.

Before you throw down the legal gauntlet, it is wise to do your best to work it out. If there is a possibility of having dialogue with your adversary without killing each other, then try and find some sort of a middle ground in order to create a win-win situation for all sides. Never sue for spite or revenge, and be careful that you are not motivated by emotions. Remember that everyone has feelings which tend to sway judgment and create a different point of view than another. Don’t let anger or that green eyed monster embroil you into a long controversy that costs you a friendship, business associate, neighbor or some other relationship that cannot be repaired.

One must make sure that jumping into a lawsuit will truly be cost effective. Remember that it is not easy for the layman to represent himself and, as the old saying goes, “anybody who represents himself has a fool for a client”. If you have to retain a lawyer, he or she will usually charge an hourly rate or flat fee and collect a substantial retainer up front. However, in some cases such as personal injury the attorney may charge a contingency fee rather than an hourly rate. In those cases the attorney will not require an upfront fee, but will take payment when the case is either settled or won based on an agreed upon percentage. In most of those cases, the client will be responsible for all expenses related to the case.

If you cannot work out your differences and the amount of the dispute is not too large then Small Claims Court may be the answer. Local justice courts are set up to assist people in resolving small disputes. For instance, Small Claims Court in Putnam County allows one to sue for up to $3,000.00, and the filing fees cost around $25.00. However, the person you are trying to sue must reside or have their business in the town where you file the case. The clerks of the court will usually assist people in moving through the process or provide you with a booklet that explains how to proceed.

If the amount of the dispute is larger than the Small Claims Court limitation, then you will need to file the case in the Supreme Court and will most likely need the assistance of an attorney. This is because the process will require sophisticated legal drafting, paper discovery, depositions, motions and a trial if the case is not resolved. Unfortunately, in many of these cases there is never a true winner after factoring in legal fees, emotional tolls, time, and broken relationships. So do your best to work things out before putting yourself through what Shakespeare described as,” The Heartache, and the thousand natural shocks” of litigation.

Rick S. Cowle is an attorney admitted to practice law in New York, Connecticut, The District of Columbia and The United States Supreme Court. He is president of The Law Office of Rick S. Cowle, PC a general practice law firm located at 95 Gleneida Avenue, Carmel, NY 10512, 845-225-3026, e-mail: RCowle Law@, Web Site:

This article is meant for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create an attorney client relationship or to give legal advice