Why I Sued an Elephant

15 million lawsuits were filed in America last year. I urge you to protect yourself, and the first step is researching how you can lawyer-proof your life.

“Throw him in jail! He won’t give me his animal crackers!”

I pointed to a gray stuffed elephant sitting innocently on a high chair. My 11-year-old brother, who I convinced to be the judge in this scenario, slammed a spoon on the kitchen table.

“Order! Order! Mr. Ears, you’re guilty of eating Jessie’s cupcake. You must give her all of your animal crackers as an apology or go to jail.”

I grinned and took my winnings as my parents continued to cook dinner.

And that was the last time I sued someone.

This was a normal activity for my brother and me when we were kids. We watched way too much Law & Order back in the day and liked to play “Court Time.” I would say it gave us a warped view of the world in which people sued one another every second of the day at the drop of a hat.

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But, unfortunately, that’s pretty close to the truth … at least in the United States.

And it’s precisely why I’ve made an effort to be proactive about protecting my hard-earned wealth. Something I want to stress today…

Let’s just use last year as an example of what I mean. Some of the top frivolous lawsuits of 2016 include:

  1. Two people sued Starbucks in a class-action lawsuit alleging too much steamed milk. Another customer sued because of too much ice.
  2. A woman sued the beauty company Fresh Incorporated because she thought there was more Sugar Lip Treatment lip balm at the bottom of an empty tube. (I’m scratching my head on that one too.)
  3. Another woman won $161,000 after she walked into a ladder while texting which caused her phone to hit her face.
  4. PETA sued a photographer, claiming that Naruto — a monkey who took a selfie — owns the copyright on the photo. This case actually started in 2015 and only settled in September 2017. In the end, the photographer agreed to donate 25% of his future earnings from the image to protect Naruto. It’s unclear who had to pay the $261,200 in legal costs that left the photographer broke.
  5. Finally, a MasterCard holder sued the company for raising more than $30 million for cancer research when the original goal was only $4 million. Yes, the company was sued for raising too much money for a good cause.

At this point, I could probably sue a stuffed elephant in actual court.

But is it really surprising? As of 2014, 1.2 million lawyers reside in the U.S. — that represents more than 70% of the world’s lawyers. That’s an increase of over 100% from the 1980 total of 574,810.

That dramatic growth just demonstrates how much American society relies on lawyers to solve problems of any kind.

And it has made us an incredibly litigious society.

About 15 million lawsuits were filed in America last year. That’s one new lawsuit every two seconds. In September 2016, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America found that the annual cost to the U.S. economy for civil lawsuits was a whopping $239 billion.

And the estimated annual cost to each citizen for these suits is $812.

As people who are committed to growing and protecting our wealth, I think it’s critical for us to understand the potential issues here.

People like to sue. And if you’ve built up a nice store of wealth, you’re particularly vulnerable. So I urge you to start protecting yourself. And the first step is researching how you can lawyer-proof your life.

To get started, I suggest reading this book.

I’ve already started my second read-through of it, and it has some great advice.

Catch you next week.

Regards,

Jessica Cohn-Kleinberg
Managing Editor, Banyan Hill Publishing