How To Be A Good Plaintiff in Your Lawsuit

If you find yourself suing your landlord, you become a plaintiff in a legal action. A plaintiff is someone who makes a legal complaint against someone else in court. It is not uncommon for tenants to have legitimate reasons to complain about a problem with a rental unit in court. When this happens, you become the plaintiff, and your landlord becomes the defendant.

Successful outcomes will be determined by how accurately (and efficiently) you present your case. Tenants can be more successful by working as a team with their counsel, and by following these five important guidelines:

Keep Good Records and Keep Them Safe

Your first-hand knowledge of your complaint is important. Organize all paperwork, photos, correspondence and calendar notes. Give the original  documents to your lawyer, she needs to present the originals in court.  Keep copies for yourself in a folder where they will not be lost. Avoid altering documents once they are given to your attorney; make new notes. If your complaint is ongoing, keep a log of all incidents.

Always Respond Quickly To Your Attorney, and Be On Time

Tenant/landlord disputes can move very slowly or very fast – make sure you reply quickly when your attorney contacts you. Return all telephone calls and e-mails from your attorney promptly. Your attorney is trying to help you. Missing or vague information can create problems with your case – keep the communication lines open.

Plan to arrive early for attorney meetings and for court, because the clock is ticking; punctuality is appreciated. A calendar mix-up or late arrival to a meeting or hearing can be expensive or even cost you the case.

Tell Your Story Clearly and Consistently

As a plaintiff, your “complaint” should be clear and unchanging. For example, if a landlord failed to respond to repair requests over a 6-month period, and a flood occurred, use your documentation to create your case and stick to it.  Stay on the subject and timeline, whether telling your story or in person or in writing. If new developments occur while the case is in progress, update your attorney as needed.

Keep Details of Your Case Private

Once you enter the process of suing your landlord, issues should remain between you and your attorney. This is not the moment to share your situation on social media, or discuss the problem with your friends and neighbors. What you tell your attorney and what she tells you is strictly confidential.  Do not share what your attorney told you with friends or other family members.

It is important to avoid further conversations with your landlord once the legal process has begun. You could compromise your position unknowingly.  Allow your attorney to do this – it is part of the service she provides.

Listen To Your Attorney

Many tenants who find themselves in lawsuits are first-time plaintiffs in landlord/lord tenant disputes. It can be a bewildering process full of dense documents and legal terms you don’t know. The laws are complicated and vary from city to city.  Trust your tenant attorney to guide you and pay close attention to their advice.  She is a specialist in this area of law, and as a legal professional her goal is to win your case.  Work with your attorney to help her achieve a successful result for you.

Know your rights. Protect yourself.

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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

Tenant Attorney
1458 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

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