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Can Big Businesses Buy Their Way Out of Legal Responsibility?

  • By:Hershey Law

Whether it’s legally and morally right or not, the fact is that if an individual person or small business files a lawsuit against a big corporation, they often lose. This is commonly seen in personal injury cases where the corporation is responsible for damages done to the plaintiff, or the person who is accusing them of wrongdoing.

Corporate giants usually have an army of lawyers on retainer, ready to throw big words and intimidation tactics at the plaintiff. They can afford to draw out a lawsuit for years until the accuser throws in the towel. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When a business is solidly in the wrong, a knowledgeable attorney, like those at Hershey Law, isn’t scared of intimation tactics. They can swat away all threats that are not legally sound, and they know all of the possible schemes that could be used to help limit the liability of the company.

With the right lawyer and enough evidence, any business can be held accountable for their misdeeds. That doesn’t mean they won’t throw out all of the stops to try to get out of it, though.

It’s Not Legal to Buy Your Way Out of Accountability, But…

Corporate attorneys are paid the big bucks to get their clients out of liability situations. When they are sued for personal injuries or wrongful deaths, their attorneys will aggressively fight to defend them. This can be done in multiple, mostly legal but not necessarily ethical, ways.

If a company knows they have a lot to lose, they often plan ahead for this contingency. They will ensure that their own personal liability is limited, so their families are not affected, by setting up their business as an LLC or a corporation. They might also create shell companies to purchase assets through. This keeps their main company from being able to be sued for big assets.

As mentioned, if a company can’t avoid the lawsuit, there are other tactics their lawyers will use to protect their clients. One common strategy is to attempt to intimidate or coerce the plaintiff into dropping the lawsuit. Depending on how this is done, it can actually help the plaintiff’s case. Certain strongarm tactics are illegal in most states.

If they can’t win through threats, intimidation, and scare tactics, they may resort to a form of bribery. This is completely legal if it’s done through mediation. The defendant may agree to offer a settlement in exchange for dropping the case. With most businesses, this comes contingent with a silence clause, called a confidentiality agreement or a non-disclosure agreement. This usually states that the plaintiff, upon accepting the settlement, cannot talk about the details of the case.

Through mediation, businesses often feel that they “won” because they have the money to throw around without missing it. It doesn’t count against them as a judgment, they can usually write off the money as a loss, and the plaintiff can’t disclose details. In effect, they bought their way out of their legal responsibility.

In extreme cases, usually involving multiple deaths or a major lawsuit that would cause the business severe damage, the company may even turn to lobbyists to help them. A lobbyist’s job is to talk to legislators on the state and federal level and convince them of a particular side. In this case, the lobbyist’s intent is to get the legislator to use tort reform to limit the liability of the business in question.

It is crucial for you, or anyone, facing a big corporation to retain the right attorney. Skilled lawyers will protect your rights, advise you as to when something is in your favor or not, and discuss with you the consequences of each decision as it is necessary. Fighting with the wrong attorney is almost worse than doing it on your own.

It’s Not Easy, but It’s Possible

Today’s culture is almost hardened to lawsuits. If anything out of the ordinary and bad happens to someone, at some point someone else is bound to say, “Well, you should just sue!” 

In some cases this is true. There are many times when a lawsuit is the only way to hold the other party accountable for their actions or to get the necessary compensation to take care of your injuries. But society has become “sue-happy,” so many of these cases are frivolous. This makes it difficult for those who have a legitimate claim to be taken seriously.

This is particularly true any time a large company or corporation is the defendant. There are people out there who want to sue just to make a buck. Those people will fake injuries, waste the time of doctors, and falsify evidence to prove they were damaged by the business. 

But others have just cause to sue. They were seriously injured or lost a loved one because of the negligence of a big company. Sometimes they fall prey to the intimidation tactics or financial difficulties of suing the business responsible, but other times, the underdog becomes the champion.

Examples of Little People Winning Big Against the Corporate Giants

Just about everyone has heard of the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit. While it was the foundation for multiple jokes, gags, and television sitcom punchlines, the facts behind it were serious. Many people accused the woman who sued the company of filing a frivolous lawsuit, but she had sustained third degree burns due to the excessively hot coffee and didn’t find it amusing.

The details behind the lawsuit are a little more explanatory of the large compensation and larger press the case received. The woman was a 79-year-old grandmother going through the drive-thru with her grandson driving. She ordered a coffee, and, even though the car was parked, the coffee spilled onto her lap. She admitted that the spill was her fault, but the resulting burns were not.

The coffee itself was 190 degrees. To put that in perspective, water boils at 212 degrees.

Even though the woman almost died and ended up requiring long-term hospital stays and major surgeries to heal the third-degree burns she received, she was against suing. However, her medical bills were over $20,000 and she requested McDonald’s help to pay them. In response, they offered her a settlement of $800. At that point, she had no other option but to sue.

By suing one of the largest giants in the world, she ended up with $600,000 in compensation and a win for potential future victims. McDonald’s reduced the coffee’s temperature to one that wouldn’t cause third-degree burns and was held accountable for their policies and the way that they treated their injured customer.

In another situation, it’s often the little things that mean the most. We all have heard of the housing crisis that hit the country in and around 2009. Florida was one of the hardest hit, just recently recuperating from hurricanes and then dealing with the crisis. During this time, a couple purchased a home in Naples for cash. All was well – until the bank stepped in anyway.

Through a miscommunication, Bank of America began foreclosure proceedings to kick the couple out of the home that they had paid for free and clear. In order to keep their home, they had to hire an attorney and pay thousands of dollars in legal fees. 

Bank of America dropped the foreclosure proceedings, but it was a glaring error that the couple should not have had to deal with, so they requested their legal fees be reimbursed by the bank. When no money arrived, even after a court order, the couple’s attorney was not giving up. Since they had the court order, the attorney began foreclosure proceedings against the bank’s local branch. 

This finally resulted in Bank of America distributing a check to the couple for legal fees and extra costs, an amount of approximately $5,000. It wasn’t much, but it was definitely a case of the little people fighting the giants with an attorney who wasn’t intimidated!

These two cases are completely different, but there are multiple other instances that run the gamut between them. In both cases, the injured party simply wanted their legitimate reimbursements. Instead of handing it over reasonably, the corporate giants balked, refuted the allegations, fought the system, and dragged their feet…but ultimately, they lost.

Even Big Businesses Can be Held Accountable

Real life is different than movies. Most big corporations aren’t going to go to illegal extremes to buy their way out of their legal responsibility. Why should they, when their armies of legal experts have an extensive array of legal(ish) ways to do it for them instead?

If you are trying to fight the giants by yourself, or with an attorney that is intimidated by the power of the big money, call or contact Hershey Law today to schedule a consultation. It’s easy and free to see how we can help you win your battle to hold these big businesses accountable for their negligent acts.

Posted in: Employment Law, Personal Injury