There are many reasons why someone may want to sue a company, whether that is for a breach of contract, an injury, or another wrongdoing on the business’ behalf. The people that file suit against businesses are often employees, customers, or stakeholders who have been harmed in some way by the company. This harm can come in many forms, including physical, mental, or emotional, and each case is handled differently.
Some cases are taken care of in small claims court, while some are settled entirely out of court. If you are considering suing someone at a company – or the business itself – you likely have many questions. In this guide, we will discuss the basics of suing a business, as well as other options to consider if you aren’t ready to go to court.
How do I file a lawsuit against a company?
If you have been harmed by a company, you are able to file a lawsuit against them. However, before you get too far down the rabbit hole, take a moment to gather any proof you have that the company harmed you. These can be photos, emails, witnesses, medical records, or contracts. It is recommended that you write down any details you remember from the situation before you forget, as you may need to share these with an attorney and judge later.
Once you have gathered evidence and taken notes about the wrongdoing, you can file a complaint with the court in your jurisdiction. To do so, you will typically just have to fill out a form that outlines who is filing a complaint against who, and for what reason. In some jurisdictions, you will send a demand letter at this stage, which tells the defendant and the court what kind of compensation you are hoping to gain from the case. Upon being notified about the complaint, some companies may try to settle with you outside of court, which can be a solid option for you if you do not want to have to worry about all of the fees that go along with a lawsuit and hiring an attorney.
To proceed with filing a civil claim against the defendant, you will need to register through the local court and schedule a court date. However, it is important to keep in mind that once you file a complaint, a business will want to protect their reputation just as much as their money. You must be prepared for the business to fight back, which is why it is so crucial to have evidence against them.
If you go to court over the dispute, it will be considered a civil lawsuit. A civil lawsuit takes place when a defendant has caused harm or damage to the plaintiff. Civil cases cover many of the wrongdoings that are not considered criminal cases, whether that is a wrongful termination at work, a breach of contract between an employer and employee, or a bodily injury from a product defect.
Note: You will also want to notify your insurance if you have been harmed by an organization. They will typically be able to help you when it comes to collecting damages.
What about Small Claims Court?
If you are seeking damages under $1,000, you may go in front of small claims court to present your case. It is a relatively cheap forum for minor disagreements and controversies. Plus, you may not need legal assistance in small claims case. You will just need to be prepared to pay some money for the filing and court fees.
On what grounds can you sue a company?
Going up against a business, especially a large one, may feel a bit intimidating. However, there are many reasons why individuals may be able to sue a business and win. Most often, those who sue corporations are employees, customers, or stakeholders. Other instances of someone suing a company may be if an employee of the business does harm to a bystander while on the job. So, on what grounds are you able to sue a business? Here’s a look at some common reasons individuals go up against a corporation:
Wrongful termination – If you are a former employee of a company and believe you were fired for reasons that were not just, such as discrimination, you may have a case for wrongful termination.
Breach of contract – There are several ways a breach of contract can happen. An employee may leave their job before their contract says they can. Or, an employer may go against terms laid out in a contract with an employee. Maybe you signed a lease with an apartment complex, and the property management company did not abide by the contract. Regardless, when terms of a contract are broken, you can sue a company.
Injuries – If you are physically hurt while at work, or if an employee on the job does physical harm to you, you may be able to sue a business for bodily harm. This can also apply to customers using a business’ product that malfunctions and ends up injuring them.
Harassment – Like injury, employees who are harassed, whether it’s physically, mentally, or sexually, can file a lawsuit against a business for related harm and damages.
Malpractice – Patients and clients of care facilities can sue a business for malpractice if they believe the business acted negligently.
Fabricated financial information – If shareholders for a company are provided with false information about the financial health of an organization, they can sue the organization.
How To Find An Attorney
If a company has caused you harm, you may want to find legal assistance to help with your case. It is advisable to hire an attorney from the beginning because there are a lot of moving parts when you choose to sue someone at an organization, or the business themselves. If you are an employee (former or current) of the defendant, you will want to find an employment lawyer. There are attorneys who specialize in lawsuits from wrongful termination to harassment, discrimination, employment contracts, and more. If you’ve been physically hurt by an organization and/or one of its employees, you should find a personal injury lawyer.
Organizations being sued, on the other hand, should look for a corporate litigation attorney.
Do I sue the business or the owner?
In most cases, the business is the entity that gets sued, but in certain situations, the owner or an employee of a business can be sued, as well.
This kind of question is most often asked when it comes to bodily harm cases. For example, if someone is walking across the street at a crosswalk and a delivery truck hits the bystander, the company and the individual driving would most likely be at fault and could both be sued by the civilian. On the other hand, if an employee is working in a factory and one of the pieces of equipment malfunctions, causing the employee to be injured, the company would be at fault in most cases. Laws regarding these kinds of cases vary by state.
In fact, if you work for a large company, you may not be able to sue them at all. Yes, you heard that right. The majority of Fortune 100 companies, as well as other large entities, will make employees sign a mandatory arbitration clause when they are hired so if a problem ever arises, it has to be handled in a private settlement rather than claims court. This is to protect the reputation of the organization, its employees, and its financials. Companies that use mandatory arbitration clauses are typically franchises or well-known organizations that would be highly scrutinized by the public if lawsuits were to arise.
What about sole proprietorships? You can sue someone that owns their own business if it is not an LLC, but a sole proprietorship. This is because the person and the business are the same from a legal standpoint in a sole proprietorship; whereas, an LLC is an entity of its own and is separate from the owner of the business.
If you are unsure how to proceed with a legal settlement or lawsuit, an attorney can provide you with advice on how to sue someone in an organization.
How much does it cost to sue a company?
Keep in mind, a lot of effort, resources, time, and money go into suing a business. There is never a guarantee that the plaintiff will win the case, either, so it is important to weigh your options before going to court. If you have a minor injury, it may not be worth it to you to file a lawsuit against a company because of how much money it costs to hire an attorney and pay court fees. If you are uncertain about whether or not to pursue a lawsuit, always talk to an attorney about your options.
To learn more about business law, here’s a look at the 4 Questions To Ask Before Hiring a Business Lawyer.