by Steve Marr
Courtrooms are filed today with a huge backlog of cases, many of which involve a business. While you may not always be able to avoid being sued or dragged before a judge, you may want to explore alternatives. Using a set of ground rules, such as the following, will minimize your conflict:
First, recognize that most conflicts arise from a genuine misunderstanding. King Solomon said, "Through presumption comes nothing but strife" (Proverbs 13:10 NASB). A key to avoiding future problems is to write out all-important agreements, such as customer contracts, employment policies, and other agreements. Time has a way of rewriting the best of memories and circumstances will unfortunately rewrite the memory of others. Written agreements are a plumbline in disputes.
Second, be Christ-like when problems come up (see Matthew 18:15-17). Go to the person directly and state your offense and what you would like done about it. Complaining to others only gets your anger and blood pressure up while never solving the problem. If you are unable to work out the problem, then ask to speak with a supervisor or boss.
Third, determine the facts when a customer complains or you are contacted for falling short. If you or your company is wrong, rectify the situation promptly. Jesus said, "Make friends with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, in order that your opponent may not deliver you to the judger, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison" (Matthew 5:25 NASB). I know of a trucking firm that lost a shipment and refused to cover the value of the lost merchandise or even refund the prepaid freight. The shipper sued and was awarded the value of the goods, shipping costs, and damages due to the delay. A $4,000 claim ultimately cost over $30,000, plus legal fees!
Fourth, keeping our attitudes in check is important. Jesus said, "blessed are the peacemakers" (Matthew 5:9 NASB) and Paul instructed us to "pursue peace with all men" (Ephesians 4:31 NASB). I have seen many disputes that could have been easily resolved escalate into outright war because of the attitudes of each party. They should have listened to any complaints carefully before insisting the other person was at fault.
Fifth, outline the situation carefully to a trusted friend before proceeding to court. Your friend may have a different perspective that will allow you to better understand the perspective of others. King Solomon wrote, "Do not go out and hastily argue your case; otherwise, what will you do in the end when your neighbor puts you to shame?" (Proverbs 25:8 NASB).
Sixth, seek arbitration before filing a suit yourself or request arbitration rather than a court date if you are sued. Arbitration is always less costly than a lawsuit, both financially and emotionally. Consider requiring arbitration rather than legal action as part of any contract. I have insisted that contracts I sign contain a clause that all disputes will be handled by arbitration. In one case a company refused and I declined to sign the contract. Later I found they were in extensive litigation with many people over non-payment of invoices.
Seventh, and finally, consider dropping a case rather than suing someone. Paul instructed, "It is a defeat for you that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?" (I Corinthians 6:7 NASB). Today, forgiving a debt or wrong may be hard, but consider the forgiveness granted each Christian by the Lord and consider extending grace.
Steve Marr is a business/ministry consultant and author of the book Business Proverbs. His daily radio feature, "Business Proverbs" is heard on 1,000 radio stations. He is the former CEO of the fourth largest import-export firm in the United States. Website: www.businessproverbs.org