Austin TX Real Estate - Hill Country Austin Lakeway Homes for Sale: Why is Everyone so Sue-Happy?

Why is Everyone so Sue-Happy?

Why is everyone so Sue-Happy?  When did our society turn into a society where you can sue someone just because you're unhappy with something?  I think it started with the hot coffee spilling in the lap and the massive reward outcome that came with it.  Since then, it's lawsuit after lawsuit.

This blog is inspired by all the Q&A questions with people asking if they can sue the Seller for this and can they sue the Seller for that and can they also sue the Inspector for this and that.

We all know that with home ownership, comes responsibility... at least every home owner should understand that.  With home ownership, comes maintenance.  When something goes wrong, you fix it.  You don't search for someone to blame so you can sue them because something went wrong under your ownership.

Take a car for example.  You have this trusty car or weeks, months, or even years.  It's always been good to you and runs just fine.  Then, one morning you wake up, and the car doesn't start.  What's wrong?  Hmmm, I know, why don't you sue the manufacturer for your car not starting.  They must have known it was going to not start one day.  While you're at it, why don't you sue the car dealership where you bought it because they must have been in cahoots with the manufacturer to sell you such a bad car.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?

Now, you've been in a house for a few months and the AC goes bad.  You're in the house a few weeks and the plumbing gets backed up and you need to snake it out...  You assume that Seller must have known it was going to go bad so you want to sue the Seller.  You had a home inspection done so you decide to sue the Inspector too.  YOU CAN'T DO THIS!! (Well, you can, but you're not going to win.)

You say, "But the seller didn't disclose the condition of the AC on the disclosure notice."  "But the Seller didn't disclose the plumbing issue on the disclosure notice."

THERE IS NO ISSUE TO DISCLOSE IF THE SELLER DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT IT!! Just like with the car example above, sometimes things just happen.  My AC went out last summer.  We called to get it serviced.  The garage door opener stopped working, we got a new gear.  The shower stopped giving us hot water, so we got a new valve... do you get the idea??  If it's broke, fix it!  Don't just call your local attorney and think you can sue everyone.

Remember, you will hold the burden of proof.  If you can't prove that the seller knew anything, you have no case (I'm not an attorney, but without proof, I highly doubt any attorney will take the case).  If you can prove that the seller knew something and did nothing about it, and then also didn't disclose it, that's a completely different thing... but for that to happen, is unlikely.  For example, back to the AC example.  Say the AC was not working properly when the Sellers owned it and they called someone out to fix it.  They didn't like the price, so they decided not to get it fixed, and they also didn't disclose anything wrong on the disclosure notice.  For you as the new home owner to get proof, you will need to have called the exact same AC company and them say something like, "Oh yes, we were at that house such and such time ago and we told them that the AC needed a new thingamabobber.  They opted not to spend the money so we didn't fix it."  NOW you have proof that the sellers knew something that they didn't disclose.

Just because something happens the week you move in or very shortly after, does not give you the right to sue someone without proof.  The burden is on you, and you need to look into all your options before you file a frivolous lawsuit because people also sue others for frivolous lawsuits being filed against them...

Remember, I work all of North Dallas County and Collin County including Richardson, Plano, Allen, Frisco, Carrollton, Garland, Rowlett, McKinney, etc... my car will take us anywhere you need to go!! 


Comment balloon 21 commentsDonna Harris • August 20 2007 03:45PM


I wish just once an attorney would not take a case on for all those reasons you outlined.  Most cases the only winner is the attorney.

Dick Beals

Posted by Dick & Sandy Beals (Wilmington Real Estate 4U Wilmington, NC) about 13 years ago
good blog. I completly agree that we are much to sue happy these days,
Posted by Jeff Fulgham, Broker E-Pro ABR (T.U.P. Realty) about 13 years ago
In the previous market where you could either sure, or just resell and take a huge profit is gone and people want someone to blame.  I protect myself by disclosing everything, and saying very little.  I never make claims and on my disclosures and never put descriptive words.
Posted by Adam Brett, The Adam and Eric Group, Fullerton's Finest (The Adam and Eric Group) about 13 years ago

Is it really worth the retainer fee and the cost of an attorney.

Posted by Rebecca Savitski, NC Real Estate Listings (BSR Real Estate Group) about 13 years ago

I am 100% with you Donna.

 When I was young, my little brother had a way of getting into EVERYTHING.  One day while with my mom shopping at the local supermarket he picked up a razor blade one of the stockers set down.  He nearly sliced off the tip of his thumb before my mom knew he had it.  What did they do?  Took him to get it patched up at the Dr office, I dont recall any stitches, and the store covered it.  No lawsuit.  No trauma.  No pain and suffering.

I am a big proponent of consequences.  I say countersue with a Frivolous Litigation suit as standard practice - maybe make it a federal law - bring a lawsuit, sure, but be prepared to pay if you lose.  That way anyone thinking about sueing can see the potential for a downside and perhaps they will reconsider.  Right now it is way too easy.

Posted by William Moore (Innovative Realty) about 13 years ago

What other profession can charge you $200 an hour plus expenses, totally lose the case, and expect to be paid as if they had won? 

It doesn't seem to have ever occurred to the public that had they known the guy was not going to win for them, they could have hired a homeless guy on the street for 5 bucks an hour and his lack of success would have been no worse but far cheaper.

I say let's demand a fee schedule of minimum wage for tort attorneys unless they win.  At that time, their fee is recalculated.  Watch how fast the courts get free of nonsense cases and watch how fast the list of practicing attorneys is culled.

Good post.

Posted by BILL CHERRY, Broker & Wealth Coach (Bill Cherry, Realtor) about 13 years ago

Dick, True, very true.

Jeff, thanks for stopping by.

Adam, I tell my sellers to disclose everything as well, and that helps me feel more comfortable as well since no one can come back on me for not disclosing any material fact. 

Rebecca, Many people think so, and that's just sad.

William, I had something like that happen. I was taking Driver's Ed at Sears and my foot got caught in the escalator on our way to the cars.  It chopped the top 3 inches of my shoe off and I just remember trying to curl my toes up as far as possible as two friends pulled me out of the hungry steps.  They just bought me a new pair of shoes.  I was on cloud nine when I realized the shoes were $16 when I only paid $9 at Payless!!!  LOL!  I think back every once in a while wondering why I didn't sue, but it wasn't something that was done that many years ago...

Bill, Sounds like a good plan.

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - about 13 years ago

I think of my liability all the time.  I have an associate that went through a lawsuit.  Make sure you're all up to date  on your E&O Ins. these days!

Chris Gempeler 

Posted by Chris Gempeler, Mountain Top Realtors (Breckenridge Mountain Top Realtors ) about 13 years ago
Chris, THanks for reminding others about E&O.  By the way, can you please deleted your web address in my blog.  It's blog etiquette not to advertise yourself on someone else's blog.  I rather not delete your comment.  If someone wants to learn more about you, they'll click on your name as it's already hot-linked to your profile. THis is another pet peeve of mine.  Thank you.
Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - about 13 years ago
Great blog post, you make some really good points.
Posted by Stephen Joos & Chris Brubaker- HouseFront (HouseFront) about 13 years ago
Oh so true !! The lawyers make the money. It is ridiculous.
Posted by Missy Caulk, Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate (Missy Caulk TEAM) about 13 years ago

I remember the story about the landlord in New York who refused to rent a flat to an attorney.  He got sued.

The judge asked if it was true that he refused to rent to attorneys.  He said yes. 

When asked from the judge why he refused to rent to attorneys; his response was look where I am standing.

Posted by Randy L. Prothero, Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645 (eXp Realty) about 13 years ago

House front, Thanks!

Missy, I knew I should have gone to law school like everyone kept bugging me to do...

Randy, That's pretty funny.  Actually, I thought that if you consistantly discriminated, that was allowed.  Like, if you always discriminated against college students or if you always discriminated against smokers, etc... I thought it you could show a pattern, you were ok.  It's not based on one of the protected classes... or when did occupation become a protected class.

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - about 13 years ago
This is a terrific post, and super-accurate.  As the broker of a company with about 20 agents, we have issues to resolve every week, but we have yet to be sued (thank God!), but I have had to head off multiple lawsuits.  Usually, people will become much less angry if they feel like they are getting adequate attention.  Overall, I suppose our society is simply too litigious these days. 
Posted by Jason Crouch, Broker - Austin Texas Real Estate (512-796-7653) (Austin Texas Homes, LLC) about 13 years ago
It is always someone elses fault no our own.
Posted by Vicki Bishop GRI - Alabama Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors®) about 13 years ago
On a trade mission to Finland we met with some attorneys there - in Finland it's not what the contract says that's critical - it's what the intention of the parties was, and after that, whether there was an attempt to mitigate the damages. What a difference from our system!
Posted by Sharon Simms, St. Petersburg FL - CRS CIPS CLHMS RSPS (Coastal Properties Group International - Christie's International) about 13 years ago
On a trade mission to Finland we met with some attorneys there - in Finland it's not what the contract says that's critical - it's what the intention of the parties was, and after that, whether there was an attempt to mitigate the damages. What a difference from our system!
Posted by Sharon Simms, St. Petersburg FL - CRS CIPS CLHMS RSPS (Coastal Properties Group International - Christie's International) about 13 years ago

Jason, That's great that you've been able to stop the lawsuits before they get too far.

Vicki, Exactly!!

Sharon, That is definitely a difference.  I wonder how many suits they have on their dockets each week.

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - about 13 years ago
I realize this is a bit off topic from your post but I am currently suing a builder and I don't consider myself a very litigious or money hungry person.  I had a development in the Metro Atlanta area under contract for 2 years with a very large builder group.  I could have sold it once we got the LDP to 5 other developers but the builder didn't want to let it go.  I could have sold it to 10 other builder groups while we had it under contract and in the development stages.  Again, they wanted to buy it and refused to let it go.  They walked on it 60 days after their inspection period was up and the contract was hard.  We had final plat and were set to close 2 weeks later. My clients got many of their specifications approved by the county and we did everything that they asked for.  The market shifted and they decided it would be better to let it go.  They pulled out of their contract and left us holding the bag. 

Both my clients and I are suing the builder group for failure to perform.  I don't want a million dollar settlement.  I just want them to honor what they agreed to do and to pay reasonable attorney fee's. 

My point is that many lawsuits are so frivolous that it isn't even funny but sometimes you just have to do it.

Posted by Jessica Horton Jessica Horton Realty, Jessica Horton: I'm not #1... You Are! (Jessica Horton - Jessica Horton & Associates) about 13 years ago
You just have to laugh sometimes at the things people will sue over.  I live just outside Washington, DC in Montomery County burbs where 1 out of every three of my neighbors is an attorney.  I think I probably live in the most litigious county in the Nation. 
HECK, I live in the area where the famous judge just tried to sue his dry cleaners (for mental anguish) over his favorite pants being ruined to the tune of several million dollars.
I agree with you, I am sick of seeing the courts waste everyone's time and money over stuff like the CR-P in the above story!  ONLY IN AMERICA LOL
Posted by Debbie Cook, Silver Spring and Takoma Park Maryland Real Estate (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc) about 13 years ago
It's the lottery mentality.  Many people hear about these frivolous law suites that win and they start to see dollar signs.
Posted by David Slavin, CDPE, ABR, SRES Keller Williams Premier (Keller Williams Premier) about 13 years ago