Today’s word is more often than not used as a threat. In many cases, when confronted with it, people are willing to make deals and agree to things that would otherwise be unacceptable. Other than just knowing that it usually means bad things, let us probe a little deeper and try to understand just exactly what litigation is and why people try to avoid it.
Much like the basis for our legal systems, which comes from the ancient Romans, the word litigation comes from Latin. Initially coming from the phrase litem agere, which literally translates to ‘advancing or setting into motion a lawsuit or dispute,’ the phrase was later shortened to litigare, meaning ‘to sue or go to court,’ and, finally, through Late Latin, litigationem, which provides our word of the day.
The first known use comes from a satirical poem in 1567, recorded in James Cranstoun’s Satirical Poems at the Time of the Reformation (1891), simply to mean a dispute: “who do abstain from litigation or from his paper hold back the pen, except he who hates out Scot nation?”
Within the next century, we begin to see the word reaching the usage with which we are most familiar – the action or process of legal proceedings – starting with John Stephens’ 1661 work, An Historical Discourse on Procurations, Synodals, and Pentecostals, where he writes that: “I never heard of any that stood out a suit against this payment..but was always overthrown in the litigation.”
Finally, in order to understand why this word can be so scary, we need to look to a more modern source – Justin McCarthy’s 1880 work, A History of Our Own Times, where he succinctly states that: “Litigation means the waste of time and money.”
Essentially, litigation, when considering legal representation fees, court fees, and settlement costs, is anything but cheap and fast. Considering that an American 2013 study by the National Center for State Courts found that the least expensive median litigation for automobile-based cases (such as accident/injury) was $43,000 and medical malpractice litigation topped the median list at $122,000, and when compounding this with the understanding that justice works slowly, there is obviously a good reason to stay out of court.
And while we maybe can’t take the fear out of the word for you, now at least you have a better understanding of it. And we know what are talking about, as EVS Translations is currently providing services to most of the global top 20 law firms.