Cite Your Authority — Protecting Your Legal Rights

When dealing with businesses, an individual can take steps to protect your legal rights

Protect Individual Rights - Cite Authority

A. Lewis Ward helps consumers in many ways to protect individual legal rights when dealing with businesses

Have you been in a situation where you were being asked to pay some amount of money or do something which you did not feel was right? As an attorney, it has been my experience that often, people are too ready to accept, believe and be governed by what other people tell them is “company policy” or “that’s the way we always do things.” In many cases, this is simply what the company has decided it will do – with no legal authority or basis to support their decision.

Protecting your legal rights

When you find yourself in this situation, you may protect your legal rights by simply asking the person you are dealing with to cite the authority for the position they or their company are taking.  Ask them to refer you to that part of the contract, applicable state or federal law, or rule or regulation which empowers them to require from you what they are asking of you.

The effectiveness of asserting yourself in this manner is exemplified by a recent real life story. Several months ago a woman came to see me about a problem with her casualty insurance carrier. It seems she had submitted a claim to her carrier to repair property damage to her car caused by a dealership wrecker and the insurance carrier was insisting that the check be made payable to both her and the dealership. The dealership had paid off the lien on her car and purchased it for a diminished amount because of the damage to her vehicle. However, the dealership did not obtain an assignment of her lienholder’s rights and therefore did not step into the shoes of her lienholder. Nevertheless, her insurance carrier was insisting that the dealership be included as a payee on the payment of the property damage claim. She knew that if the dealership was included as a payee she would never be able to obtain the money from the payment of the claim.

She was not in a position to pay the legal fees for this type of case, so I simply suggested that she contact the insurance company and ask them to cite that part of the insurance contract that served as the basis of their authority. She left my office and I never learned what happened. However, about two or three weeks later I came in from court one day and saw a large, beautiful wine and cheese gift basket sitting in my office. When I opened the card, I realized the gift basket was from her and on the card she said that “Your words were like magic.”

Large businesses tend to run rough shod over people and take advantage of their ignorance. However, you can be smart enough to thwart these efforts by simply insisting that they cite their authority.