Getting Your Money: when to sue

I was recently at a social function where a carpenter was telling me that the Courts in BC are useless because even if you win, you never get your money from the losing party. Although, I do not think he is correct, it can be true.

Before you embark on the potentially lengthy journey of litigation you should assess if it is a good business decision. I often have clients that come to me because they are angry: angry at past partners, employees, employers, and generally people that they feel wronged them — and they want satisfaction. When deciding when to sue, emotion should not be part of the decision making process. If it is, you will invariably be disappointed.

What you should be asking yourself is “If I win, will I get anything at the end of the day?” If the answer is “No” you should really think about not starting litigation. If you feel bad now because you have been wronged, think how bad you will feel later if you win and all you get is a hefty legal bill.

If you sue in the Supreme Court of BC you may get some of your costs back, but only if the other side has money.

Prior to making this important decision you need to know who you can sue. If a small company wronged you, you may only be able to go after the company and not the guy running it. Many times the first key question is who is actually on the other side. Is it Tom, the guy that sold you the building, or is it his numbered company 12345678 BC Ltd.? The company may not have any assets and may be out of business by the time the court case is over. A business is a separate legal entity and although all of the actions were done by the owner, he may not be personally liable for any of it.

Just like when you are building something out of wood: “Measure twice and cut once” is the old adage. In litigation, think twice before starting litigation because two wrongs don’t make it right.

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