I have heard and seen it far too many times. Frustrating indeed. It is the terrible results of the “wait too late” phenomenon. Here is a real life example….
Nice man owns a small business and has been in business for approximately seven years. Customer comes to him in a relative panic and in need of his repair services. Nice man checks product presented by customer and diagnoses problem. Nice man provides service for customer at a very reasonable rate. Customer returns about two weeks later and needs service again. Nice man performs more service which, in essence, is to fix the same issue that originally caused the customer to come to him. From here things get murky but the end result was the customer sued the nice man and due to the nice man’s lack of familiarity with the court system and legal process he is saddled with a significant monetary judgment. I was contacted too late to provide the help this nice man truly needed. How could this bad result for the nice man have been avoided?
Purchase of insurance for the small business—I am no insurance agent and I am not selling insurance. I will say though that if the nice man had a business insurance policy and had utilized it the result in the case could have been quite different. Lesson for all business owners, large and small: if you have insurance coverage be sure to read that policy as soon as a claim is made against you. That coverage may help you resolve the claim and prevent a larger issue from developing.
Cost-benefit analysis of the situation at hand—Before the customer ever filed suit she offered to resolve everything—purportedly—for the amount of money she had paid the nice man for his services. This offer was rejected and protracted litigation ensued which ended somewhat badly for the nice man. The nice man wound up paying me more money in legal fees than the settlement amount the customer proposed over 1 1/2 years ago…ouch! And as a result of the recent hearing the nice man will now have a judgment against him for approximately 10 times the settlement amount the customer proposed…double ouch! Sometimes it is better to make a decision based on economics versus principle. Principle can cost you dearly on some occasions and, unfortunately, this was one of those times.
Consultation with an attorney as soon as possible—The customer filed suit against the nice man in Small Claims Court and lost. The nice man thought this was the end of the matter. Unfortunately for him this was not the case. The woman hired an attorney within a week after losing in Small Claims Court and her attorney used the rules and legal procedure to obtain a judgment against the nice man. If the nice man had consulted an attorney once he was served with the Complaint prepared by the customer’s attorney, the nice man’s attorney would have had the opportunity to file an Answer, file counterclaims, develop a case plan and conduct discovery, discern if a pre-trial motion to dismiss was appropriate, or otherwise mount a vigorous defense to the customer’s claims. Heck, the nice man may have even been able to get the customer to pay his—the nice man’s—costs and attorney’s fees.
I hope nobody reading this post finds himself in the same position as this nice man. It was tough for me to sit next to this man in court and realize all the things I wish I could have done if only I had been contacted far earlier in the process. I did manage to save him from an even worse result and he was quite thankful for the services I provided. Nonetheless, I could not help but have an empty feeling of “what if?”.
Do not be this nice man. If you are sued or in the midst of a situation that may need attention by an attorney please consult one sooner rather than later.