I get calls all of the time from people who know in their heart that they are right. Maybe they know their boss discriminated against them. Perhaps it’s that their loved one was killed by medical malpractice. For others they need no convincing that a neighbor caused damage to their property. I almost never doubt that they are right.
All that said, it’s one thing to know in your heart something is true, but another thing to have that belief be found true in a court of law. To do that you need actual evidence. You can know that your boss is racist, but if you don’t have proof that you were treated differently due to race, you won’t have a case. That can be hard because most people aren’t stupid enough to say something like, “I’m firing you because you are black.”
As a lawyer, I had two experiences this past summer that showed the importance of proof at times and how we often don’t have the proof we need because we don’t think it will be necessary or are told something that isn’t true.
I was lucky enough to get to travel to Europe for a vacation. The trip was amazing, but there were some small hiccups. I was in Paris and taking a Eurostar train to London. The train was set to leave at 1:11 p.m. We arrived before noon and waited in a long line. As we got toward the front, they were not letting people through security and told us that our train was delayed. Eventually they gave us a piece of paper with a new train car assignment for a train that was leaving at around 3:15 p.m.
A Eurostar employee told us that they have a policy that if your train is delayed by more than 60 minutes, you get half your fare back. That would never happen in the US so we were happy to hear that. The employee told us that all we had to do was go online after 24 hours and fill out a form. Sounded simple enough. I went online two days later, tried to fill out the form and it came back that I was not eligible for compensation. Tried again a week later, same thing. So I submitted a customer service inquiry. Took a few weeks, but eventually they came back and said that according to their records, I made the original train.
I told them what their employee had told me and how we were given a paper slip to board the new train. They told me that they needed to see that slip or some other proof or they couldn’t provide a refund. Now my original ticket was electronic and of course we didn’t save a paper slip. Nor did we take video of the employee telling us about the new train or anything else that would prove what happened. We of course didn’t think that would be needed.
So now I won’t get a refund. It’s too small to sue over. So I have to move on as I don’t have the proof they want. It’s dumb and really just principle now. But even I as a lawyer didn’t think about getting proof so I certainly don’t blame anyone else that doesn’t have it. We take people at their word which of course makes sense.
The second situation was worse, but worked out financially at least. I bought tickets on Stub Hub Ireland for a Premier League game. I’ve used Stub Hub hundreds of times in the US without problem and one thing I like about them is their “Fan Protect” guarantee which basically implies that your tickets are guaranteed to be good and they will solve any problem that comes up.
I turns out that the ticket I received was a fake. I learned this when I presented it to the ticket taker at the stadium. They sent me to the box office who confirmed the ticket was fake. As a side note, Stub Hub isn’t nearly as big in Europe and some soccer clubs warn you not to buy through them. I tried calling the toll free number on their website, but there was no answer. All I could do was fill out a form. So I missed that game which truly sucked.
I didn’t hear back from them until the following week. In what was a theme for my vacation, they wanted proof that I didn’t have a good ticket. They said I should have filmed myself trying to enter the stadium or talking to the box office. Uhm, what? I’m a 50 year old man, not a kid who films their life. And of course I wasn’t expecting the ticket to be a fake, so I of course didn’t film anything. I did, however, email them in real time, call the US Stub Hub (they can’t help on international sales) and try to call them.
It worked out financially because I was able to contest it with my credit card. Had I needed to sue, my only proof would have been my testimony. Would that have been enough? I don’t know.
The bottom line is that you need proof to win a civil lawsuit in Illinois or anywhere, but the reality is that most of us don’t think about suing in the moment so we fail to get rock solid proof that will help us.