What is a “Frivolous Lawsuit”?

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Jan V. Hinson with Tilton & Tilton LLP.

What is a “Frivolous Lawsuit”?
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A frivolous lawsuit is a lawsuit considered to have no merit from the get-go. In some cases, a party may attempt to file a lawsuit against another party with the motive of winning financial compensation, even when no real damages were done. Other times a frivolous lawsuit may be filed in an attempt to annoy or harass the other party. With many frivolous lawsuits, even the filer themself is aware that the lawsuit has little to no chance of succeeding.

Frivolous lawsuits may be punished by a monetary fine.

If a lawsuit is obviously frivolous and proven to be so from the start, the filer may be charged a fine as high as $25,000 depending on the kind of case filed, according to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. In many cases, frivolous lawsuits are dismissed before they even have the opportunity to be examined in court. If the presiding judge thinks the claim seems obviously untrue or that the request for compensation seems grossly over-inflated, there is a good chance the lawsuit will end then and there.

A frivolous lawsuit is not supported by legal or factual means.

If you are facing a lawsuit without any factual support, there is a good chance it is frivolous. In this situation, it is important to remain calm and avoid retaliating against the inciting party. Oftentimes frivolous lawsuits are filed with the very intent to rile up the other party. Ignoring the bait and waiting to make any decisions before speaking to a lawyer is the best scenario in this situation.

Some lawsuits are so strange they may be dismissed as frivolous, even when this is not the case.

Although this is not thought to be a common occurrence, even the Supreme Court has admitted that this can happen. On occasion, a lawsuit may be decided to be frivolous due to the unlikelihood of the claims of that lawsuit being true. However, there are some situations in which the unexpected does occur and deserves to be remedied. To avoid having your lawsuit labeled as frivolous, it’s a good idea to consult with a lawyer who can help assess and collect whatever evidence is available to support your case. This may put to rest any suspicions or accusations of a frivolous lawsuit before they begin, and comes at no cost to the filer.

In cases where someone is seriously injured due to another party’s negligence, there is no such thing as a frivolous lawsuit.

The “McDonald’s Hot Coffee” lawsuit is credited with making frivolous lawsuits famous; ironically, this lawsuit was far from frivolous. The woman who was injured by the scalding hot coffee received third degree burns, requiring skin grafts. She attempted to settle with the popular food chain for the cost of her medical bills, but when the company refused, took the case to trial. Additional damages were awarded on a punitive basis to discourage McDonald’s from continuing their policy of serving dangerously hot coffee. With this information, it is easy to see that this lawsuit, often coined as the first frivolous lawsuit, was not frivolous at all. An attorney will not take your case without speaking to professionals in the field be it medical or otherwise to discern whether your lawsuit has a chance at success. If you have been injured by another party’s negligence and are unsure whether you have a viable lawsuit, reach out to a personal injury attorney for a free consultation.

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