I remember very clearly being about twelve years old and watching Oprah for the first time. I don’t remember what the show was about, but she commented on the subject at hand by saying that “America is very litigious country.” I was like whaaaaat? That was one of the doper words I’d ever heard, but had no idea what it meant. I ran to get a dictionary (yes, the book version) to read that it means “prone to lawsuits.” Yes. That would be my new word forever.

Since then, like most things she says, I’ve taken Oprah’s statement to be true. We do live in a society where everything from accusations that McDonald’s turned you into a prostitute to claims that online criticism from ex-girlfriends ruined your life can make its way to a court of law. As shown by Basketball Wives‘ Jennifer Williams proudly suing another woman for a little slap in the face, even escapism reality tv has turned into an opportunity for lawsuits. Daytime television is a steady stream of small claims court shows featuring gripes that sometimes amount to less than $100 worth of damages — many of the conflicts have the same content as trashy talk shows, just laced with the kind of lawyering talk that we love. Cable news has birthed channels exclusively devoted to following court cases with pundits who wouldn’t have been on television before the O.J. era explaining to us laypeople what each and every legal twist and turn really means. Everybody knows that one of the best ways to come up on a lot of money is to win a settlement. America really is as litigious as it wants to be.

But as much as I regularly set my DVR for Law & Order, I cannot imagine suing anyone unless the stakes were pretty high. If you watch People’s Court, which I love, you know that aside from “sorting out the pots and pans” after a romantic relationship gone bad, housing and cars are the most popular reasons for going to small claims court. Likewise, I’ve considered lawsuits against former roommates and landlords, a car dealership, and a mechanic, but couldn’t be bothered, and have never considered suing anyone else who has simply done me wrong (and like all of us, I’ve come across plenty of such people). In an alternate universe where I’m getting divorced, someone has cost me thousands of dollars, or has caused me physical harm I could see myself getting a lawyer and handling my business, but it would take a lot for me to actually file a lawsuit.

Where do you stand? Are you litigious? What would it take for you to sue someone?


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  • Dreaming

    Hmmmm. I wanted to sue my employer for accusing me of theft.

    I was a teller at a credit union and one day my cash drawer came up short. We tried to find the difference, but was unsuccessful. The woman who was in charge of fraud prevention outright accused me of theft. I know it was her job to find out what happened, but she made statements to me that I felt were inappropriate. The woman who had trained us for the job had put together a theory based on events that were taken out of context, accusing me of making statements I had never made.

    To make a long story short – This was a small credit union, so their headquarters was in one building. When I was there, other employees who worked in that building had these looks on their faces as if I was some type of common criminal, which lead me to believe they probably were talking about what happened, making me look like a bad person.

    When I filed for unemployment, they told the unemployment office that I had done nothing wrong, but then they made up a little lie about me having my phone in my cash drawer.

    I wanted to sue them at the time, because I felt that they may have painted me in a bad light by outright accusing me of theft with false statements and for lying to the unemployment office.

  • Jocy

    As an attorney, I must agree with Oprah’s statement. We live in an extremely litigious society. With that being said, individuals must weight costs versus benefits when considering a lawsuit. They must also determine if their claim has merit based on law. Just suing on principle doesn’t cut it. There are alternate ways to reach a desired result without filing a lawsuit (for instance mediation).

  • I’m sorry but from this statement in your article- As shown by Basketball Wives‘ Jennifer Williams proudly suing another woman for a little slap in the face, even escapism reality tv has turned into an opportunity for lawsuits.- are you actually questioning and looking down upon Jennifer suing No Edges Nia for slapping her? No matter how “little” the slap was, there was unwanted bodily contact and what Nia did was assault so with that being said I’d sue as well.

    • Super Negra

      Amen….and had Jennifer fought her, they would both be in jail. I think she should go ahead with her lawsuit so all the other chickens know not to put their hands on other people…no matter how light the slap.

  • Pseudonym

    “As shown by Basketball Wives‘ Jennifer Williams proudly suing another woman for a little slap in the face…”

    Are you serious?

    Physical assault is a crime.

    • Eve

      Yes, it’s a crime and she should have called the cops because only the state can bring a criminal prosecution. If she is suing then it’s a civil lawsuit and she will get money damages if she wins. Now I don’t watch this show, if the writer calls it a “little slap” it’s probably not worth suing for. I mean, was she bleeding? Did she lose teeth from this slap? I would agree with the writer that this lawsuit is probably frivolous.