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Published on Dec 16, 2008
"Justice needs to be served, but not at the expense of innocent people - that wouldn't be justice, would it?"
Because he wanted to pass a family business on to his son and two daughters, Charles Terrizzi started his own small company out of the converted garage behind his house. With five employees, Charles' start-up, Chase Air, installs air conditioners in homes in Jacksonville, Florida.
Last year, Charles was working in a customer's attic when he received a call from his service crew. He learned that a man crossed a yellow line and veered into oncoming traffic, hitting one of Chase Air's two vans head on. The police determined that the accident was the other driver's fault. But that didn't stop the ticketed driver from hiring a lawyer to file a claim with Charles' insurance, threatening to sue if they did not pay for the damages that, according to the police report, he himself caused.
Like they do with many other claims, the insurance company decided that, not withstanding the facts of the accident, it would be more costly to fight and win in court than simply to pay a settlement, so they gave the driver $10,000. Charles said, "The sad truth is that it's cheaper for [the insurer] to settle as if they did something wrong when they didn't do something wrong... Thus it's perpetuated that opportunistic lawyers can continue to do these things. They're made stronger when who's made weaker? The American people -- the hardworking people."
In this case, Charles was right. After receiving the money from Charles' insurance company, the driver and his lawyers next sued the young man who was driving the Chase Air truck. That case is still ongoing.
Speaking about the cost of lawsuits to American businesses, whether in the form of higher insurance costs, out of court settlements, or expensive legal fees, Charles said, "All these things factor into our ultimate price to our consumers, and everybody has to pay for it."
According to Charles, not only do the costs of liability insurance and other legal fees drive up prices, but one lawsuit could easily put his small start-up company out of business. "Justice needs to be served, but not at the expense of innocent people - that wouldn't be justice, would it?"