Kooky Reasons You Can End Up Sued in Texas
Ask anyone who has ever been through a lawsuit. They can be costly to defend against. They can be even more expensive to lose.
Getting sued generally follows the same legal steps. Someone files a complaint with the appropriate court. Once that is done, you get served. This is usually the first time you know you are about to go through the ordeal of a lifetime.
Once served, you will have 20-30 days to respond to the lawsuit.
Next, you will have to hire an attorney to defend you. Attorney fees are not cheap. Filing a vigorous defense against a lawsuit can be extremely expensive.
After that, the discovery process begins. This involves exchanging information and evidence relevant to the case, such as documents, witness statements, and expert reports.
The other steps include settlement negotiations, where the parties can agree on compensation. If that can't happen, then it goes to trial and, depending upon the verdict, appeals. The whole agonizing process can last for several months to several years.
Here in Texas, there are several crazy reasons why someone can be sued. These include:
1. Defamation by social media: If someone goes on social media and says hurtful and untrue things about you, there are steps you can take to make them pay. Defamation by social media is a new and now common legal issue in Texas. Defamation can occur when someone makes a false statement that harms another person's reputation intentionally or negligently.
To prove defamation, you must show that the defendant acted with actual malice, defined as knowing the statement was false, or negligence which is failure to exercise reasonable care in verifying the truth of a word.
These lawsuits can be humungous. In 2015, a Texas jury awarded 5.3 million in damages to a man who was defamed on Facebook by a former co-worker.
2. Alienation of Affection: In Texas, it is legal for a spouse to sue a third party for intentionally interfering in their marital relationship, causing the spouse to lose their affection or love for their spouse. In other words, if you steal someone's spouse, knowing they're married in Texas, you can be sued.
To prevail, you have to meet a high burden of proof.
There must be a valid marriage. The spouses must have genuine love and affection before the relationship is hijacked. How hard is that to prove? It must be proven that the defendant's actions were malicious and intentional. You have to prove they intended to break up the marriage.
These lawsuits are very few and far between. There have been some large settlements, however. In 2008, a Texas woman was awarded $1.3 million in damages in an alienation of affection lawsuit against her husband's mistress. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant had intentionally interfered with her marriage by engaging in an extramarital affair with the husband, causing the loss of affection and love between them.
3. Spilling Hot Convenience Store Coffee on Yourself: Stores have been sued because customers bought and spilled their hot coffee on themselves. Maybe they should sue their mamma for the clumsy gene.
Perhaps the craziest lawsuits of all might be real cases where people sued a haunted house in Texas, claiming "emotional distress."
At least one such case reached the courts here in Texas. It happened in 2008. A woman named Jessica Carbajal filed a lawsuit against a haunted house operator in San Antonio. She claimed she suffered emotional distress from the haunted house's scare tactics.
She did not win her case. The bar is set high in emotional distress cases in Texas. Plaintiffs must establish that they suffered severe emotional distress from the haunted house's conduct and that it was "extreme and outrageous." Isn't that the point of a haunted house in the first place?
That is why haunted house operators in Texas and elsewhere typically require visitors to sign waivers and assume the risks of participating in the haunted house.