Frivolous Lawsuits in Today’s Judicial System

Date: November 14, 2018
Posted In: DLP Law | Press

Frivolous Litigation in Today’s Judicial System

Based on what we see on the news, it seems like people are suing each other left and right for the most absurd reasons. It’s not uncommon for the media to report on one of the newest “crazy lawsuits” going on at the moment. The presentation of these stories is typically the same: the narrator may have skeptical tone as they read details about the case, or there could even be lighthearted music playing in the background. While the media has a tendency to be very cynical about lawsuits of this nature, they may not be giving their viewers all of the facts about these cases.

Examples include: (1) Robbers filing suit homeowners for injuries that occurred while they committed theft, (2) drinkers suing breweries for their hangover and (3) prison inmates asking the state for compensation while serving prison sentences—these are real-life examples of frivolous lawsuits that happen in our world today.

They’re often called “crazy lawsuits” but in the legal world, they are referred to as “frivolous litigation.”

What is a Frivolous Lawsuit?

By definition, a frivolous lawsuit is a claim “filed by a party or attorney who is aware they are without merit, because of a lack of supporting legal argument or factual basis for the claims.”

Frivolous lawsuits waste time, money, and judicial resources, and penalties can be enacted on parties guilty of committing frivolous claims. Additionally, these impractical cases make corporations nervous and can cause an increase in service prices to cover intensified legal risks.

In contrast, a legal claim of dispute between private parties—persons or organizations—is known as a personal injury or civil lawsuit. These cases submit a valid legal argument for the plaintiff, and uses facts and evidence to support their claim. Civil cases, like frivolous lawsuits, also generally seek monetary compensation.

Cases of Frivolous Lawsuits

Most courtrooms can spot the differences between a civil and frivolous lawsuit from a mile away, and they quickly dispel them before it becomes a serious case, but some frivolous cases brought to court do occasionally slip through the net.

For instance, the infamous “Hot Coffee” case (formally known as Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants) is an example of this. In 1992, plaintiff Stella Liebeck filed a lawsuit against McDonalds for monetary compensation for second-degree burns she received when she spilled the 180-degree coffee on her lap. Even more astonishing was that she won, and won big—$2.7 million in damages.

As you may remember, McDonalds got the settlement reduced to $640,000, but what you may not know is that originally Liebeck only sought $20,000 in compensation—just enough to cover medical expenses. The coffee was 40 degrees hotter than a coffee machine at home would typically be.

The media portrayed Liebeck as a money-grubbing customer simply trying to siphon a large company’s wealth, but in fact she only asked for reimbursement for her injuries. The additional compensation was offered by McDonalds and ultimately demanded by the jurors, not Liebeck.

Whether the Norman vs. Honda or Liebeck vs. McDonalds cases were frivolous or not are debatable, but they certainly show us that many cases which appear frivolous at first may have some validity in court – it also shows that these cases aren’t so cut and dry most of the time.

In Conclusion …

Some frivolous cases have slipped through the net in the past and wasted court resources, but despite first appearances, in today’s judicial system most cases are civil and need proper representation in court.

To ask if your personal injury claim qualifies as a civil case, contact our personal injury law firm today for a free consultation.

Injury? Call DLP! (570) C-A-L-L-D-L-P or visit

Joe Price
Attorney Joe Price is a seasoned Trial Lawyer serving Northeast, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania for the past forty (40) years. He has handled serious personal injury cases in courts throughout the Federal system including New Jersey and New York. Attorney Price is A.V. Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is Board Certified in Civil Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1996.