A friend of mine, Louis Green, and I were talking last week about talking to clients about being a plaintiff, i.e., suing somebody. Louis is a consumer law attorney. He handles many of the same kinds of issues that I deal with, but he practices in District Court rather than the Bankruptcy Court.
A while ago Louis had a man come to see him – who was seriously embarrassed. He was an older man, who felt like he should have known better; but — to be blunt — he was suckered by a car dealership.
The first thing he needed to understand is that he was taken advantage of by professionals. This can be hard for a lot of us to grasp (umm, that would include me), but people who are truly professionals at things tend to be better at them than those of us who are really just amateurs. I hate this. There are all kinds of things that I think I ought to be just as good at as anybody else — but I’m not, and my kidding myself is hurting no one but myself. (Why, yes, I do self-manage my IRA — your point? Sigh.)
This man was old enough to know better. He had bought cars before. He knew better than to sign things without reading them, but the print was small; and his eyesight isn’t what it used to be; and the pros made him feel rushed and uncomfortable. Well, even though he should have known better, that wasn’t his fault. He was damaged by it, and he stuck to his guns. He hired a good lawyer; and he won — an award large enough the car dealership required that it be kept confidential for fear anyone might find out how much they were having to pay.
Was all of this embarrassing? Yes. Did his adult children find out he had been scammed? Yes. Did he have to take the time to go to court and participate in discovery and deal with lawyers? Yes. Was it worth it? That is a question that only he can answer, but I can say it was the right thing to do.
When people come to see me, they are tired of dealing with it all; and they just want it over. Bankruptcy is good at that, but sometimes, they really do need to step up and be a plaintiff. Sometimes, you just need to say — No, what you’ve done is wrong; and I am going to put up with the embarrassment and the inconvenience to make you pay for it. Is it worth it? More often than not, yes. Is it the right thing to do? Yes.
So, think about it. Sure, you can file a bankruptcy and discharge the underlying debt, but if someone has been incorrectly reporting on your credit report or illegally harassing you about a debt, if a car is a lemon (for information on Oklahoma’s lemon law) or you were scammed by the dealer, at least consider whether or not you should be a plaintiff, as well as, a debtor.