When Kim Kardashian announced she was divorcing her husband, basketball player Kris Humphries, after just 72 days of marriage, the backlash against the reality TV star was swift and intense.
Among those publicly calling the marriage a sham was none other than Kardashian’s former publicist, Jonathan Jaxson.
But when Jaxson flat-out suggested in media interviews that the Kardashian-Humphries nuptials were a “staged” event, Kim K. immediately struck back and announced she was suing her ex publicist for at least $200,000.
According to Kardashian’s attorney, Jaxson’s allegations damaged Kim K.’s reputation and violated a confidentiality agreement.
The ongoing Kardashian drama is sure to take a few more twists and turns before it’s all hashed out one way or another. In the meantime, the Kardashian situation holds lessons for the rest of us: While you might not be a high-profile person whose every move is tracked by the paparazzi, you may one day have to consider suing someone.
In fact, if an individual or organization has wronged you and caused you physical, professional, emotional or financial harm or damage, you may be entitled to legal recourse that could net you a significant amount of money.
Suing someone can be a fairly lengthy process depending on the situation. Still, if you have a good case and are comfortable with the idea of filing a court lawsuit, the compensation for damages or losses you’ve incurred may make your efforts worthwhile.
Here are just a few situations where you might need to sue an individual, corporation or another entity, and lessons to heed in each scenario.
Breach of Contract
If you hired a contractor or vendor to perform a specific job or task and they failed to perform as specified in your agreement, you may have the right to sue them.
A breach of contract occurs when one party in a contract fails to follow through on the terms or conditions previously agreed upon.
You will need to show proof of a written agreement or show that you have some type of enforceable oral contract to the courts. Without this proof, your claim will not hold any weight and you will not be able to pursue legal action.
Depending on the nature of your claim, many breach-of-contract cases can be settled in small claims court, where you can represent yourself. In other instances, however, you’d be wise to seek out the help of a skilled lawyer.
In the Kardashian case, Jaxson is accused of violating a confidentiality agreement. But his defense – so far at least – is that while he was sent such a confidentiality agreement, he never actually signed the agreement.
Lesson: A contract isn’t legally binding until it’s fully executed (i.e. legally signed) by both parties.
Personal Injury Situation
If you or a family member were harmed by a defective product or service by a corporation, or someone was hurt on the premises of a store, business facility, or even someone else’s home, you may be able to sue on the grounds of negligence that led to personal injury.
In this type of situation, your best bet is to retain a personal injury attorney and work on a building a solid case. Personal injury cases can range from being quite straight-forward to quite complicated.
For example, if you are walking in a retail store and a worker who is stocking inventory causes an entire row of heavy metal shelves to collapse on you, there may be little doubt that you got injured.
But to what extent? Expect to have to provide medical proof of specific injuries and proof that the individual or corporation caused your injuries.
Damages to your reputation, as Kim Kardashian may find, can be more of a gray area. If Kardashian’s efforts to muzzle her former PR agent wind up in court, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jaxson argue that he didn’t damage Kardashian’s reputation, but that she did that all on her own – via her quickie divorce filing, her previous sex tape, etc.
Lesson: Any time you want to claim injuries of any kind, document everything and be prepared to show a judge how you were “before” an incident (physically, reputation-wise, etc.) and “after” the incident in question.
Loss of Income from Failure to Perform
If you hired a specialist to complete a job so that you could generate income through your business, and they are guilty of a breach of contract, you can also sue them to recover you lost income.
As a case in point, assume a company or individual promised to provide 24/7 tech support and website services to keep your business website up and running online.
But then the system crashed and no one bothered to return your frantic calls and emails for five straight business days. Such a disaster could cost you untold amounts of money and make you consider suing.
Again, it’s important to work with an experienced attorney to go through all of the details of the situation and calculate the extent of losses and financial distress you’ve experienced.
Lesson: Paperwork, a strong timeline documenting the events, and past financial records can help establish to a court whether or not you have a bona fide claim for loss of income.
When an individual or corporation copies your work or infringes on a copyright you own in any way, you have the right to sue. This can be a complicated situation in the creative field because so many people are able to create derivatives of your work without your knowledge.
Still, if you come across blatant copyright infringement, you can pursue a lawsuit with the help of a copyright lawyer.
Other types of lawsuits might be based on employment discrimination, medical malpractice or deceptive advertising.
Lesson: In all circumstances, you have to think about whether the cost, the time, the effort and the emotional toll of a lawsuit are worth it. If you think it is, then a lawsuit may be in your best interest – no matter how difficult the case appears in the beginning.