One thing the Chief and I have learned over the last few years is this legal gem: If you are the Defendant in a civil lawsuit the Plaintiff can play merry hell with your life.
If you’re not overly concerned with the trial’s outcome–because, let’s face it: as the Plaintiff you can drop the proceedings at any time–the process itself is enough to properly torpedo your opponent.
Perhaps I should have written “victim” instead of opponent.
That’s as far as I’m willing to write from the Plaintiff’s perspective. Now I’m going to have a shower and wash it off.
As the Defendant in a civil lawsuit you must respond to the Plaintiff’s filings, usually within a small number of days–so you can expect to be served at exactly the most inconvenient time. On the eve of a holiday, say, or at eight o’clock on a Friday evening.
All of this scheduling is out of your hands, as the Defendant, and you can be sanctioned by the court for not stepping lively enough to the Plaintiff’s tune.
Thus far I’m only referring to those Defendants who exhibit good faith. It’s fair that the Plaintiff should have remedies to tame a recalcitrant opponent.
But is it equally fair, if you’re a co-operating Defendant, to have no similar remedy and by necessity rely on the whims of the Plaintiff?
That’s the question the Chief posed to me the other day.
Of course it’s not fair.
Imagine the worst case scenario here. You’re the Defendant in civil litigation; simultaneously–perhaps even suddenly–you have a very sick or dying child.
Now imagine that the Plaintiff does not care.
You don’t even want to get started on their attorney. He’s not about to forsake an ongoing paycheck–and if you lose, you’ll be paying his fees.
I know from personal experience it is impossible both to defend yourself and tend to that child.
And there’s no choice, really–when not bedside, you’re tearing your hair out with worry and grief.
The Plaintiff’s tune is not something you hear anymore.
But what if there was some remedy, some legal mechanism by which, in petitioning the bench, you–a co-operating Defendant–could have the case tabled for some reasonable period of time? Until such time as you could, in fairness, defend yourself?
The Chief is going to call it Alex’ Law.
The Chief is a genius.
Even so, why should it require a grieving mother for us to arrive at this juncture? How, this far out from Hammurabi, can civil litigation–at least in California–be considered fair when the fulcrum is slid so close to the Defendant?
I’m confident the Chief can shift it.
Ideally, it’ll be part of Alex’ legacy, along with a memorial scholarship we’re trying to establish.
But more on that later.