Why ask for the moon, when we have the stars,
Why ask for the rainbow, when we know it’s ours?
— A popular song of yesteryears
Should you be the recipient of a summons to appear in court, what would be your first reaction? ‘Where will I get the money?’ Then, when you enter the court compound for the first time in your life, what would be your gut feeling? Intimidation; butterflies in your stomach. All is not lost; there is a way out.
If you are guilty, try to cut your losses. If you are in the right, you have to proceed with a cool mind. Winning at all costs, by legal means, must be first on the agenda. Put fear aside. This is the time to hit back. If you play the game well, you can recover your costs; and a bit more. Not too much, but definitely a bit more.
You be the judge.
A litigation in the US involved the reimbursement of costs for a report. Concerned citizens filed a suit against the city authorities questioning costs paid to the lawyers for work done. The citizens felt that if the municipal authorities had done the work themselves, the costs would be far less. Stands to reason.
A developer had agreed to bear all litigation costs that the municipality incurred. That included the costs for reports needed to oppose citizens’ suits. It paid the municipality. And then proceeded to recover costs from the citizens. The citizens balked; after all, they had pointed out flaws in the report. Whom would you favour?
The citizens lost. Because consultations were incomplete between all sides, prior to according contracts. Loss of both, face and money.
How does this help us in warding off the evil eye of litigation? Courts of law decide issues. They weigh the pros and cons. When the defendant is sure of his status, he needs to assure the court that he is the victim. A victim of a frivolous action, an attack on an innocent person, for which malady, a remedy is called for. The usual method is by way of costs.
The defendant needs keep a thorough track of expenses, of time spent, of sleepless nights; the latter amounts to mental agony. This adds up to monetary compensation. Will the court allow it? This is where the advocate’s acumen comes into play. One way is to milk the law of torts. Torts are wrongs that are not always codified. Argued correctly, in a way that does not require a written law, the court can be shown that the defendant was truly hurt. Equity, a sharing of plusses and minuses. There is no mathematical formula; it is the force and direction of arguments that will carry the day.
One question remains. How much does one ask for?
The moon? Or the stars?
The rainbow? Which is just a mirage.
Hard-headed calculation is the best answer. Add to the mixture a dose of angst. Season it with a rider of what this means to society at large. And face the courts with confidence. It works.