Reuters reports that the family of a man killed in a stampede of frenzied Christmas shoppers on Black Friday filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Wal-Mart in New York.
This is a very public case. It is going to be hard to find a juror that has not heard about it. Many will also already know when they go to sit in the jury box that a wrongful death lawsuit was filed within three business days of the accident. What does that tell the jury? The jury’s determination of negligence may hinge on analysis of facts and systems and procedures at Wal-Mart that could not have been discovered when the lawsuit was filed? Do the personal injury lawyers who are trying the case lose credibility with the jury when they know the lawyer filed a lawsuit without knowing all of the facts that are the foundation for their case? Could the lawyers have settled the case for more than fair value without filing suit because Wal-Mart did not want the publicity of a lawsuit?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. What I do know is that the only harm in waiting to investigate the full facts of the case before filing a lawsuit is that the lawyers are delayed in making their big splash filing their high profile lawsuit. I’m not suggesting that is why a lawsuit was filed so quickly here because it could have been done for a number of reasons, including the insistence of the family. But these “5 minute after” lawsuits don’t help the clients and also don’t help the general public perception of personal injury lawyers or their clients.