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Unintended consequences

Posted by Scott M. Peterson | Oct 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

Somewhere in Mexico there is a man walking.  He is walking for reasons that we don't know.  Maybe he wants a better life for his family; maybe he is looking for work; maybe his reasons are nefarious.  But either way, he is walking, with many others, towards the United States – Mexico border.  He is part of what's being called the “migrant caravan.”  This is a large group of individuals and families – from various Central American countries – slowly making their way towards the border with unknown expectations as to what they may encounter when they arrive. 
I could be wrong here, but I strongly suspect that very few of these individuals has any idea about the political furor across the United States that has erupted as a result of their actions.  But erupt it has.  And without getting into the politics of it, it's safe to say that their actions have resulted in unintended consequences.
Of course a look at history provides, if nothing else, a wonderful example of unintended consequences.  How many wars have been fought, and lives lost, as a consequence of a decision that was made in a seemingly unrelated situation?
We take a cautious approach to starting or encouraging a client to start a lawsuit.  This is because once that action has been taken, it cannot be completely undone.  And while our experience allows us to counsel our clients on what should happen and what is likely to happen, we can never know with one hundred percent certainty what will happen (anyone who tells you otherwise is misleading you).
Will, for example, a local news outlet pick up on the case and write a front-page story about it?  Will an online troll post a nasty, uninformed comment about the case?  Will the client receive a settlement, and then have an estranged family member come looking for a piece of it?
These are all things that have happened after lawsuits have been filed.  They were not, necessarily, expected, but rather were the unintended consequences of a legal proceeding. 
Not all unintended consequences are negative, of course.  That front page article can and often does lead to a significant (and usually long overdue) culture change at a company, for example. 

The important thing to remember is that many actions, including legal actions, can lead to unintended consequences.  And while we certainly cannot predict or prevent them all, we can think our actions through before taking them, and maybe prevent or at least prepare for some of those inevitable consequences. 

About the Author

Scott M. Peterson

Scott M. Peterson is the founding partner of D'Orazio Peterson, having left a partnership at a large regional law firm to limit his practice and focus on helping people protect their families.


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