Worried about suing? Are you nuts or are you not

Seriously though, when our arm is raised to strike it pains us if the blow lands nowhere and merely beats the air; similarly, if a prospect is to be made pleasing it must not be dissipated and scattered over an airy void but have some object at a reasonable distance to sustain it… – Michel de Montaigne, How the soul discharges its emotions against false objects when lacking real ones.

A while ago I told you about Staff Man, a clinically psychotic guy who was a civil rights client of the law firm for which I worked.

Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned him. Maybe I encouraged you to believe that anyone has a case no matter how nuts he is. Or, alternatively, that because you think you’re nuts, you shouldn’t pursue a lawsuit.

So let’s move out of the stages of Who SuesWho Shouldn’t Sue? and Uh-Oh and head to the Oh No! stage of a lawsuit. This is the stage in which your uneasy suspicions that you might have to sue turn into certainty.

But before I do, let me offer some reassurance: if you’re facing into a possible lawsuit, you are ipso facto in a state of crisis. Crisis is not a state that is conducive to rational behavior. So don’t feel bad if you think you’re not being entirely rational.

The worst aspect of emotional crisis is a sense of helplessness, being out of control. Action is the antidote to helplessness. When you begin acting on your own behalf, you will feel better.

Knowing what’s likely to happen and how to act upon what you know—the purpose of Sidebar—will help you feel empowered.

I’ve already given you some tips about how to behave rationally (writing out your story and keeping files) and I’ll expand further upon that theme, offered to me long ago by an innovative psychiatrist, who advised me to “act as if” I were OK because often “acting as if” leads to feeling OK.

Considering a lawsuit is evidence that you’ve begun to cope with this emotional turmoil, this assault upon your essence, in a relatively sane, productive manner.

But I’m not giving you permission to act like a nut. There are some things you shouldn’t be doing (aside from dropping spangles onto your lawyer’s carpet–you remember that woman, right?).

The Don’ts

  • Don’t move out of your house or quit your job, if you still have one.
  • Don’t get in your opponent’s face, screaming or yelling at or hitting anybody, not right now.
  • Don’t threaten to sue. You don’t want to forewarn and forearm your opponent, especially if you are not fully informed about your legal position. You’d be surprised how ignorant most people are about the causes of a lawsuit. There’s a difference between an emotional cause of action and a legal cause of action.
  • Don’t call your opponent nasty names, however accurate, to his face and in front of another person. This could be defamation. But if your opponent does this to you, make careful note of the date, time and person who overheard it. Because this could be defamation.
  • Don’t write explosive e-mails or letters. If you’re spilling over with hatred, write it out for yourself and then burn it or send it to a close relative but you’ll probably find it too shameful to show anybody else so just burn it. From now on, any computer document or piece of paper might be turned over to your opponent, so don’t have anything in your files or in cyberspace that helps them prove you’re nuts or lying. And flush the ashes down the toilet. And delete it permanently from your hard drive. Take this remedy as many times as you need it.

In short, don’t act out–against your interests.  Act in–for yourself.

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