The culture that is America (lawsuits in everything)

The wedding photos didn’t come out right, because they missed the last fifteen minutes of the event and there were only two hours of  video, and so:

Mr. Remis’s wedding took place in 2003 and he waited six years to sue. And not only has Mr. Remis demanded to be repaid the $4,100 cost of the photography, he also wants $48,000 to recreate the entire wedding and fly the principals to New York so the celebration can be re-shot by another photographer.

Re-enacting the wedding may pose a particular challenge, the studio pointed out, because the couple divorced and the bride is believed to have moved back to her native Latvia.

The full story (with photos) is here.


How is it not the government's fault? In a sane system, the judge would say "was there a contract item for any missed footage?" "No, well then you are awarded $4100 x (15 minutes / X minutes)." "Oh, you want $48,000? Bullshit. You get nothing." I guess this is probably what happens, but it would take me 30 seconds.

Dude must be quite a catch if the lady divorced him and went home rather than stay in the US. Not too surprised, though, given this story.

The system can be blamed had these damages been granted. I can't see how any legal system can prevent such a suit from being filed; even if this is abuse. If the plaintiff loses the defendant can always demand costs.

Anyone can file a suit.
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

It should be easy to file, and be decided in 30 seconds. The dismissal should be recorded.

"Costs" does not include legal fees, which the defendant says have reached $50,000, just a few hundred for filing fees. So that will hardly be adequate compensation for being forced to defend a nonsense suit.

That's true re costs. But, the legal issue is breach of contract--an agreement to provide service which was not provided.
Photographers get sued, and that's why they buy insurance for this.
Ever lost some film, when there was film.

So, as a legal issue, the court couldn't dismiss it--unless you want people to be able to breach contracts.
But, the question is damages.
The plaintiff will be a loser and is the one making the bad investment.

By the way, the way you would cut off a suit like this, if you are interested, would be to tender an offer of judgment for the amount you think the case is worth.
If the offer is refused, costs get assessed against the plaintiff from that point forward.

So it is clear, if the offer of judgment is rejected, and the plaintiff later gets awarded less, costs are assessed to the plaintiff.

Again, not all costs.

I'm truly baffled as to how the defendant's legal costs have hit $50 grand. Sounds like the real crook is not the plaintiff but the defense lawyer who's taking his client for a ride.

Bearded, Agree re defense lawyer and also baffled why he didn't do an offer of judgment very early on. The judge would have pushed the plaintiff to settle.

Insurance is not un-related to the issue of the courts. If the courts operated predictably and quickly, insurance would likely be seen as less of a necessity. That is why I referred (above) to an explicit contract. The product of a wedding video is worth much more than the cost of the service. This must be reflected in the actual contract or the court can't be expected to make you whole for your loss of something priceless.

Yes, my "dismissal" was probably the wrong word, but referred to the recreation request, not the breach of contract. However, if you attempt something that ridiculous I'd be okay with counting that as character evidence. Hire two videographers/photographers. Or, put the punitive damages in the contract. If it's not in there then that part of the case gets dismissed. You don't even get the $4100 because it is not entirely the court's responsibility to filter idiocy and that's as good an incentive as any. There would be no covering the defendant's costs because there wouldn't be any defendant's costs. I don't need to hear the defense. If you don't submit the contract then there is no case. A ruling could be made solely on the filing. Publish such a summary judgment, and if you don't like it then the judge can be recalled. Filing the recall should be equally easy.

It's not like the courts are great at forcing people to pay anyway. Even an airtight case is often not worth the trouble. You win, then you have to do all the work of collecting yourself anyway. The legal system keeps siphoning rents. It's easier to see there is a problem than to fix it, but when the people in control whose job it is can't see there is a problem they aren't going to try. We can't tell them how to fix it because they'll constantly tell us how we are using the wrong jargon. It is all about the speed and efficiency. The cost of the court system is too high, and for most of the insiders that cost is their benefit.

Yes. "Mentally Ill Person Files Frivolous Lawsuit" probably doesn't merit NYT coverage....

The problem is non-lawyers don't know the right jargon, and lawyers don't think there is a problem.

Does that tell you something about who knows more.
It's not jargon, it's strategy.

No, it's debate club. Not you, but it usually means someone knows their side is wrong but they just want to win. Kind of like a lot of trials!

"The full story (with most of the photos) is here."


Statue of limitations. Dismissed. Pay the defendant's costs.

Exactly: statute of limitations. Easy defense.
If the defense lawyers run up hundreds of hours for legal bills, then THAT is the real problem.

Suggestion: rename title to "Enforcing contracts in everything"

I fully agree with Mr. Fried, this is an abuse of the legal system. The whole legal system is set up to allow these sort of abuses to continue. Even though in everyone's mind, this situation makes no sense from the time lapse, to the re-creation of the wedding, to the $50,000 that the photographers already paid in legal costs; they had that contract to record and document the whole entire wedding. I believe that Mr. Remis should be entitled to the $4,100 that he is asking for the photos taken, but not the $48,000 for the re-creation, this is just nuts. Why would you fly your ex from a foreign country, and relive what is suppose to be the most delightful day and you fake it, so you can have "real" pictures of your wedding to a woman you are no longer married to. Non of this makes sense to me, and it kills me how people can takes these actions and possibly put the 65 year running business out of business. It is just sad really.

How would you set up the legal system differently? Would you prohibit people from filing lawsuits under certain circumstances?

Did you hear the "This American Life" episode about the guy in the Chinese jail? Make our system as unlike that as you think possible, then keep going.

Well, loser-pays is a common alternative. Canada basically does that. I think most of the world does...

It effectively prohibits the poor from suing, and makes the wealthy think twice. Depending in detail on the structure of the law.

Loser pays legal fees.

That doesn't work when the problem is that the wrong side wins.

The court's not going to permit a $48k recreation of a wedding, because courts don't permit economic waste.
The defendant should have framed the issue as damages, made an offer of judgment of $4,100 and let the defendant then pay for costs (deposition transcripts, court costs, etc.) if the court were to award less than the offer of judgment. An active judge would signal what was going to happen before it ever had to happen.

Let's be clear, the $48,000 would not be used to recreate the wedding. The recreation is simply the justification for getting the defendant to cut the check. The money would more likely to be spent on a mail order bride or booze.

The kicker is that it has already cost the defendant $50,000 and there is no judgment. Let's say the defendant lost, many businesses would be bankrupted and have nothing to pay. Let's institute "Court System Pays."

"Anyone can file a suit." So far, so good. But...

"If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."

Then why the $50,000 in defense costs thus far (no, I don't entirely trust their word either)? Loser pays is fine, but to meet payroll you have to have a legal defense fund of idle cash. Paul Krugman isn't going to like that. You can say this is an outlier, and that may be but what is the system for if not to cut these off at the knees? I have no reason to believe this is the exception. I was involved in a very simple legal matter (a traffic accident) that took over a year to resolve. There have been other legal issues in my sphere of influence and without exception the biggest factor in the decision is the expense and hassle involved.

Why the defense costs?? Because the defendant has a fool for a lawyer.

Any good defense lawyer would have tendered an offer of judgment at an early stage (where there is a breach, and the only issue is damages) and shifted the costs to the plaintiff and let him suck wind when the court denies the damage request.

Wow, if a fool costs $50,000 to save you $4100, what would a good lawyer like you charge? ;)

$600 to $650 an hour.

btw, "The Offer of Judgment rule is a tort reform law aimed at controlling unnecessary litigation and at encouraging settlement."

So, it's a rule that you guys created to address the problem, right?

The offer of judgment rule is currently part of the federal, and most state's, rules of civil procedure.

I think it is pretty clear this guy wants his ex-wife back. Even the judge and defendant think so as well.

Judge: “This is a case in which it appears that the ‘misty watercolor memories’ and the ‘scattered pictures of the smiles ... left behind’ at the wedding were more important than the real thing,” the judge wrote. “Although the marriage did not last, plaintiff’s fury over the quality of the photographs and video continued on.”

Defendant: “He wants to fly his ex-wife back and he doesn’t even know where she lives.”

"Mr. Remis, who said at his deposition that he has not been employed since 2008, and his lawyer, Frederick R. McGowen, did not return messages left on their phones. Ms. Grzibovska did not respond to a message left through her Facebook page. The next court hearing is scheduled for Thursday."

And of course the obvious:

"The couple separated around 2008 and their divorce, which Mr. Remis contends was amicable, was finalized in 2010."

No money mo problems. Home boy was a research analyst with an online degree. No wonder she hit the road once he lost his job in the meltdown. Apparently that online degree didn't help.

Another reason not to get married:

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