We have two separate court systems in Michigan, a state court system and a federal court system. For disputes involving amounts of $5,000 or less, you can sue in state small claims court, which is usually available in each city (at the local district court) and does not require an attorney. In fact, you cannot have an attorney in small claims court. If your dispute involves amounts over $5,000 but less than $25,000, again, you file that lawsuit in the local district court. If your dispute involves amounts over $25,000, they are heard in the circuit courts, which are the county courthouses. The federal courts in Michigan accept cases involving federal law or diversity, which is where the parties involved are from different states and the dispute involves amounts over $75,000.
Overall, our court system is great and it works well for all different kinds of cases. Often, there are several different claims that can be made in a lawsuit, and sometimes there are more opportunities to succeed at your claims than was originally thought. A good attorney will go over the possible causes of action for your case before any action is filed, so to ensure that you have a legally based claim before filing an action with the court. But, there are some things you should know before you decide to file a lawsuit.
First, litigation is expensive. A good attorney is expensive, and if you are going to move forward with a lawsuit, you want to have a good attorney. Do your research and find one who has the background and experience you are looking to hire. Even a contingency fee arrangement (in which you pay nothing up front) generally costs up to 1/3 of your recovery plus costs at the end of the matter. If not working on a contingency agreement, the cost of the attorney could be in the thousands or dollars. The courts also charge fees to file actions and bring motions.
Additionally, many clients have explained to me over the years that they would likely not have initiated a lawsuit had they known what a severe invasion of privacy they were facing. The courts will allow any request for information if the question or document requested might lead to the discovery of admissible evidence in the case. Questions regarding your income, your living arrangements, your financial history, your tax returns, your marital status, your sexual orientation, your religious beliefs, basically every personal thing about you, may be properly requested in a case. You might be suing someone else, but that person has the right to ask you almost anything to find evidence to defend them. It can sometimes feel to the client as if he or she is on trial as well. Your attorney will object to some questions, but you need to be prepared to address these issues if the judge requires you to answer.
Finally, you must also consider the time and personal commitment required. Once you file a complaint, you are required to appear for various hearings and depositions, and you will most probably be required to fill out answers to pages upon pages of personal questions about you and your case. You will likely have to take time off work if you have a job, because the courts are not open late. The courts generally will not alter their schedules to fit yours. It can also be a frustrating sit and wait game at court hearings
as well, because not all parties are on time or the Judge has a busy schedule, and you can be forced to wait for long periods of time.
So, the moral of the story is this: you have the ability to right the wrong done to you, but before you decide to file an action in court, know what you are facing and know what result you want to get. The courts are a great way to regain your losses, but you need to be mentally prepared for the fight.
If you need any information on litigation or filing a lawsuit, please call us in Ann Arbor at 734-665-4441, or in Ypsilanti at 734-485-3626. To learn more about Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels, P.C., or any of our attorneys, please visit us at www.psedlaw.com.