During the first year of law school, every student learns the difference between a case that is not ripe, a case that is ripe, and a case that is moot. Most students go on to forget these principles figuring they will never be applicable in actual practice of law. However, they are principles that I deal with everyday. Here is a basic explanation.

There are three basic questions I have to answer anytime a potential client calls: (1) Did something happen? (2) Is there an applicable cause of action? (3) Are there damages? If I answer “YES” to all three, the case is considered Ripe, i.e. we can sue.

A case is not ripe when there are no damages. This is often seen in defamation cases. For example, some said something false about you to another person. Ok, we have what looks like slander. However, by law, if you have not suffered a loss to your reputation, you have no damages. So, your law suit is not quite ripe.

A case is moot if you had a cause of action, but you received a remedy before having a court order a remedy. For example, you do a job for someone and they owe you money. They refuse to give you the money. You call me and tell me that you want to sue for money. However, before we have a chance to meet, you call the person, tell them you have an attorney, and the person gives you the money. Well, you got what you wanted. So, your case is moot.

A case is ripe when you have suffered a wrong and you deserve to be compensated. For example, someone hits your parked car, does not have insurance, and refuses to pay for your damages. Let’s ask the three questions: Did something happen? Yes, your car was hit. Is there an applicable cause of action? Yes, negligence. Are there damages? Yes, he was driving without insurance and is refusing to pay for your damages. NOW WE CAN SUE!!!

While these are basic principles of law, it sometimes requires an experienced attorney to properly evaluate all three questions. With some legal savvy, a good attorney may be able to find damages when it appears that the case is not ripe or moot.

If you think you have a law suit, but aren’t quite sure, give me a call: 412-209-0657.  We will sit down for a free consultation and evaluate whether legal representation is best for you.