By John Kariuki
A man dismissed his friends’ counsel of an out of court settlement and successfully sued a cyclist who had led him to a road mishap. Though the villagers had their own version of events, the court ruled in his favour.
But over the next few months, a succession of events left him perplexed. The cyclist did his homework and discovered that the litigant had a business of supplying local schools with stationery. The cyclist used his networks in the school boards and community affairs and these tenders were never renewed when they ended.
Further, the cyclist had interests in a local quarry where the litigant would source building stones and sand for a construction business that he ran. Through the unions, the defendant influenced a change in the conditions of sale and the litigant had to seek alternative quarries at an extra cost.
And the cascade of cancelled business began in earnest, reducing the litigant’s networks dramatically. This misfortune did not even spare his wife who had a flourishing baking and card printing business. She would often be allowed to market her wares to other parents over all local school functions. But after the case, the school administrators banned her from even speaking to other parents. And when the true cost of the case became unbearable, the litigant relocated his businesses to a different town.
A litigious culture has taken root in Kenya, but often some people sue as a matter of blind personal and family pride, rather than any merit of their cases. Yet others institute legal proceedings largely to make a social statement by hiring the swankiest lawyers in town.
In some instances, even clan elders or the chief and his court could sort out many issues that land in law courts. But in because people are always in a hurry to seek redress, they overlook some vital steps and end up losing their hard earned finances.
But with a little legal education and common sense, people can easily guard themselves against losing colossal personal finances in the course of litigation.
obey the law
Legal experts say the first thing to do is simply to obey the law. One should always negotiate for a settlement before he or she is sued to avoid more costs that would accrue if the case goes on to final determination in court.
Ms Priscah Nyota, a Nairobi based lawyer, singles out the lack of preliminary research by would-be litigants as a major cause of loss of money.