I’ve heard clients say it innumerable times. And often times, it’s true – the client is right and the other side is wrong and taking advantage. BUT . . .
. . . being right isn’t necessarily the most cost-efficient way to go. When a client says, “I don’t care what it costs, I’m going to hold them accountable for what they did to me!”, I inevitably tell what I call “The Carol Burnett” story. Don’t know that one? Here’s the short version:
Carol Burnett sued National Enquirer, Inc. for libel; the case went to trial in California and she was awarded $1.6M by a jury in 1976. After a lengthy appeals process, her $1.6M jury award was reduced to $200,000.00 by the Court of Appeals (Burnett v. National Enquirer, Inc. (1983) 144 Cal.App.3d 991). According to the Appellate Opinion, Ms. Burnett had at least four attorneys working on the appeal; she probably had a similar team of lawyers litigating and trying before the jury case. Eventually, there was an out of court settlement, and she donated all proceeds to charity.
It can be expensive to be right. Ms. Burnett won at trial, but it’s more likely than not that she paid a lot more than $200,000.00 for attorneys’ fees and costs to litigate, try, and answer the appeal. Ms. Burnett was apparently asked about having spent more money to pursue her case than what she got as a result. She said, basically, “It was never about the money.”
If, like Ms. Burnett, you can afford to be right, then go for it. Litigate and try your case, and be prepared to go through the appeals process; also be prepared to lose and still have to pay your attorney and the costs to litigate/try/appeal your case. But if you’re someone who doesn’t have quite the same financial resources as Ms. Burnett had when she sued National Enquirer, then you might want to reconsider if you can afford the cost to prove you’re right.
Sometimes, just knowing you’re right is enough; you don’t have to spend the money to prove it.
By Katrin M. Cusack, Attorney at Law