I believe it is an NPR sketch that popularized the goof lawyer’s slogan “No claim too small, we love slip-and-falls.” But even “small” claims are full of pitfalls.
Take, for instance, the concept of “causation.” When one is negligent in carrying on a duty, such as, for instance, a merchant’s duty to keep premises safe, one is liable for the harm that results. But, it must be noted, only for the harm caused by the negligence. The fundamental purpose of this, as well put by one judge, is to “limit the range of consequences for which a wrongdoer may be said to have assumed responsibility.”
Plaintiffs’ lawyers will try and pile on as much harm as possible as having been caused by alleged negligence. Defendants need fine representation to draw the proper limits of just how much harm a mistake, if one was indeed committed, may have caused.
And, especially for Defendants, those cases are ripe for appeal. It is easy for a jury to be swayed by a plaintiff’s misfortune. But sympathy cannot be substituted for liability at law. There, the judges of the Courts of Appeals have a crucial role in helping to reign in excessive awards. (What is little known about the infamous McDonald Hot Coffee award, for example, is that after a couple of trips in front of judges, it was reduced to a fraction of the jury’s initial number.) An appellate attorney will know to work with his clients to fairly define the reach of the law if and when a mistake happened. This will give businesses the best chance to show the Court the consequences imposed by law, not emotions.