Saturday, December 1, 2012

A cause of action

A man walked into a lawyer's office, sat down and launched into his story. There is always a story. Some people think that being called to answer in court is like going to the principal's office. If you can tell a sad enough story or devise a good enough excuse, then you're off the hook. Most people don't know what type of story  a judge needs to hear. That's why we have lawyers. The lawyers understand the rules of legal story-telling.

Other people think of courts as lottery machines. If you buy a ticket, you have a chance of winning a bazillion dollars. Again, this is not how it works.

So, the man tells his story to the lawyer. One day the man had car trouble while driving on the expressway and he pulled his car over to the side of the road. As he was outside the car looking under the hood, a big eighteen-wheeler came barreling past and one of its wheels came flying off.

The lawyer asks, "Did the wheel hit your car?"

The man, "Nope."

The lawyer, "Did the wheel hit you?"

The man, "Nope. The wheel flew right over my head an landed in a field. It scared the heck out of me. Let's sue."

The lawyer, "Nope."

The man lacked a legally recognized "cause of action." Now, if the truck tire had hit the man in the head and put him in the hospital, then his story world have been much closer to being the type of story the lawyer could work with. There would have been actual physical damage to the man's body, a hospital bill to pay, possibly lost income, and probably a lot of genuine pain. Just being frightened generally doesn't count for much.

You could sue, but you would not win. Lawyers like to win.