There’s More Than One Way To Skin A Cat

Some of my clients ask why lawyer’s Complaints are so complicated and have different claims.  To them it seems simple: we agreed to do something, it didn’t get done, and I’m out my money.  I want my money back Mr. Lawyer, go get it.

But lawyers (like me) see various ways to accomplish the same goal. In the scenario above, for example, it could be accomplished by arguing that there was a contract and the other side broke the contract.  (The contract could be written or oral, in Virginia, D.C. and Maryland both are valid.)  But it could also be fraud, where the other person made explicit promises you relied on and they knew that they were lying.  Or it could be unjust enrichment, where they unjustly kept your property even though they owed it to you.  It might even be “conversion” which is where they take your property and convert it to their own without your consent.

So why claim all of them when only 1 will do the trick?  It’s what I call “suspenders and belt” theory of pleading cases.  Maybe you think the other person broke the contract.  But they might argue that there was no contract.  Then where are you?  Another reason for pleading in the alternative is that some types of legal claims bring different penalties if you win.  For example, fraud will bring in attorney’s fees plus punitive damages.  Breach of contract claims will not.

Bottom line: sometimes what looks like the lawyer “padding” things is actually the lawyer trying to maximize benefits to you, the client.

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