When a person is injured, the initial investigation might not provide all of the answers. For example, when a product such as a Blue Ember gas barbecue grill causes an injury, victims and investigators want to know: “When was the manufacturer first aware of the problem? And, should they have warned earlier about the potential to cause serious injuries? ”
To get answers, the victim’s attorney needs to review internal documents and interview employees and supervisors. Unfortunately, wrongdoers seldom allow their victims’ attorneys to review their internal files voluntarily. To get their cooperation, the victims’ attorney needs a subpoena. Only then will the manufacturer or other defendants be legally required to open up their files and submit to questions under oath. But to get the subpoena, the attorney needs to file a lawsuit.
So, then, how much evidence does a victim need before he can file the lawsuit?
It’s a bit of a catch-22. An attorney needs to file a lawsuit before he can conduct a thorough investigation. But he needs to investigate to unearth the facts that justify filing a lawsuit. So what facts must an attorney know before filing a lawsuit? In California, the law requires a mere "statement of facts constituting the cause of action, in ordinary and concise language." What does that mean? Mere allegations of fact which, if true, would entitle the victim to be compensated, are good enough. At the beginning stages of the lawsuit, the victim’s ability to actually prove the allegations is of no concern.
Not true for federal court. The requirements for filing a lawsuit in federal court are more stringent. In federal court, the attorney needs a "good faith basis" for each allegation of fact. It is no excuse that the attorney cannot conduct an investigation into the facts until after the lawsuit is filed. And, recently, the U.S. Supreme Court made it more difficult. The defendant who is sued in federal court can ask the judge to review the initial complaint and draw upon his or her judicial experience and common sense to determine if the allegations are " plausible. " If the judge thinks the allegations are not, then he can throw the case out before the defendant has to answer any questions at all.
This stringent federal standard is one of several reasons victims’ attorneys prefer to file lawsuits in California state courts. Under the federal standard, the Judge may close the door to the victims before important questions are answered.