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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Trusting in Legal Justice

Or: why it might make sense to settle even if you are in the right

Many people speak...:

"Many people speak of "suing" without actually knowing what it entails on a practical level. It's extremely problematic for an individual to commence a civil lawsuit.

1) The chief problem is cost - it's humongously expensive to engage lawyers to sue someone (or an entity). And then

2) once you commence proceedings, you have no idea when it will end - which means you have no idea how much money you'll eventually have to spend.

3) And if you run out of money, you'll have to drop the lawsuit (which is not actually that simple a process). The other party only has to have more money and resources than you to **wait you out**. If you've commenced a lawsuit out of principle, it's devastating to "lose" that way.

3) Then there's the time drain - there is a tremendous amount of paperwork involved, meetings with lawyers, and so forth. Is it worth it? What's the opportunity cost? Is it going to affect your career and the time you spend with your family?

4) And to top it all, there's absolutely no guarantee of success, even if your case appears airtight. No lawyer will tell you you'd definitely win. **We're talking about a civil lawsuit here, not a criminal one.** And even if you do win, you'll still have to pay costs!

In the meantime, over the months or even years, this court case will be hanging over your head, affecting not only you but also your loved ones. You'd be afraid to make big purchases because you have no idea how much money you'll need for your lawsuit.

All the points above, however, are moot if you have VAST resources behind you - if you are, perhaps, a large commercial entity, a government institution, or an extremely rich individual.

Alex Au's decision to accede to the letter of demand makes absolute sense. In fact, it makes so much sense that it's really all theatre. TPTB know he won't contest - it's a very reasonable gamble. In the meantime, they look good - they appear to have the moral high ground because "they dared to threaten to sue", which apparently translates to "therefore the accusations are rubbish."

Alex, on the other hand, also wins. He knows he can write what he wants because once the letter of demand comes, he'll just take his posts down. He knows that it's too much of a gamble for TPTB to actually proceed with the court case. In the meantime, his articles would have already spread all over the internet anyway.

This post also answers the question often put to me: "why didn't/don't you sue so-and-so"? The next time anyone throws out the "why don't you just sue" line, take a look at the reasons above and ask yourself if you would go through all that, and whether you'd put your family through it.

TL;DR : The flippancy with which some people talk about suing simply indicates that they have no idea what it really entails in real life."
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