I have heard clients say this innumerable times. And often times, the client is correct – the client is right and the other side is wrong and taking advantage of a situation. BUT . . .
. . . being right isn’t necessarily the most cost-efficient way to go. So, when I hear a client tell me “I don’t care what it costs, I am going to hold them accountable for what they did to me!”, I almost inevitably tell what I call “The Carol Burnett” story. Don’t know that one? Here, let me tell you the short version:
Carol Burnett sued National Enquirer, Inc. for libel; the case went to trial in California and Ms. Burnett was awarded $1.6M by a jury in 1976. Then, after a lengthy appeals process, her $1.6M jury award was reduced to just $200,000.00 by the California Court of Appeals (the case is 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; I am relatively sure, although I do not know for certain, that she had a similar team of lawyers litigating and ultimately trying before a jury her libel case against National Enquirer, Inc. Eventually, there was an out of court settlement, and Ms. Burnett donated proceeds from her case to charity.
“Okay, and? I don’t see the connection.” Here’s the connection: it can be expensive to be right. Although Ms. Burnett won at trial, 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 deal with the appeals process. And when I say “a lot more”, I mean A LOT more . . .
So here’s the moral of the Carol Burnett story: 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 are someone who doesn’t have quite the same financial resources as Ms. Burnett most likely had when she sued National Enquirer, then you might want to reconsider the cost to prove you’re right.
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