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Monday, December 28, 2009
Litigation As A Lagging Indicator: Jump in Lawsuits Is Old, Old News
Today's New York Times reports (click here) that the number of cases in New York State courts has never been higher.
The apparent rise in litigation is not really "news." This is a lagging indicator. The causes of the litigation, the underlying disputes, if you will, were bubbling to the surface starting in early 2008. The behavorial changes, such as the increase in all sorts of delinquencies or outright breaches of contract, have only grown since that time. The actual lawsuit filing began an uptick probably in late 2008 and the full year stats for 2009 now show the tangible evidence of a trend which those of us with our ears to the ground began hearing at least 18-30 months ago (yep, going back to mid-2007). In other words, your eyes have not deceived you; you have been seeing and hearing more deadbeats and petty crooks in operation. There has also, sadly, been an increase in meritless litigation, which sometimes requires innocent parties to hire lawyers to defend their rights and make sure there isn't a really gross miscarriage of justice.
There is not necessarily a corresponding litigation indicator which shows economic improvement. A decline in new lawsuit filings may only mean that the victims are too impoverished to go to court, or that they have nothing left to take.
People who believe they have been victimized should certainly pursue their options in county Small Claims courts, or in New York City, within the Civil Court which generally handles disputes involving amounts of under $75,000. Litigation can be time-consuming, and as it consumes a lawyer's time that has to be factored into the equation as well. There are lawyers (such as myself) who will also try to negotiate or mediate a dispute in order to get a client a favorable resolution without going into the court system. Litigation is not "fun" and it is a process which favors the persistent and the patient. Many people do not have the "stomach" for litigation -- which is perhaps the strongest reason to hire a lawyer.
In litigation, patience is not just a virtue. It is a strength.
If you find yourself in a delicate or undesirable situation, feel free to contact me (e-mail me) regarding your situation.