Daily English
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Practical English

0780 Being Sued

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 780: Being Sued.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 780. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California. How are you today? Me? Pretty good; thank you for asking.

This episode, like all of our episodes, has a Learning Guide. Oh yes, it does! Go to eslpod.com. While you’re there, become a member and help support this podcast. If you’re on Facebook, you can like us at facebook.com/eslpod.

This episode is about being “sued,” when you do something wrong and someone else wants you to pay money for it. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Ally: Hello, Ally McNeal.

Jerry: Ally, this is Jerry Mason. I need to talk to you right away. We’re being sued and we’ve just been served. This is one of those times I wish we had in-house counsel.

Ally: Jerry, you know that our firm will do its best to represent you, as we’ve done in the past. You can count on me and all of the attorneys in this office. How about if I come to your office this afternoon and we can discuss it?

Jerry: Okay, that’s great.

Ally: In the meantime, can you give me a brief rundown?

Jerry: Yeah, we’re being sued for negligence. In fact, it’s a class action suit against our company

Ally: All right. Can you fax or email me the papers so I can see what they’re alleging?

Jerry: Yes, I can do that. We really need your help with this, Ally. A lawsuit like this could ruin a company like ours.

Ally: Don’t panic. We’ll take a look at it and see if there’s any merit in the case. It might just be a frivolous lawsuit.

Jerry: If they have a case, you’ll have to find a loophole to get us out of this, or negotiate a settlement. The last thing I want is to go to court.

Ally: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ll discuss it this afternoon. And Jerry?

Jerry: Yeah?

Ally: In the meantime, try to lay off the coffee.

[end of dialogue]

Our phone conversation begins with Ally answering the phone, and like a lot of people do in a professional situation they answer by saying, “Hello,” and then their name or the name of their company. So Ally says, “Hello, Ally McNeal,” and the other person says, “Ally, this is Jerry Mason. I need to talk to you right away (right now).” He says, “We’re being sued.” “To sue (sue) (someone)” as a verb means to go to the court, to go to a judge and say that this person did something wrong and they owe you money, they should pay you money for something they did wrong to you. They hurt you or damaged you or your company in some way. Not physically damaged, although it could be that, but it could also just be some sort of financial loss, money that you lost because of something they did. Jerry says that their company is being sued and we’ve just been served. “To be served” in this case means to receive legal papers from the court notifying you – telling you that you are being served or that you must take some sort of legal action. Jerry says, “This is one of those times (one of those instances or situations) I wish we had in-house counsel.” “Counsel” (counsel) means a lawyer, an attorney, someone who is knowledgeable about the law. “In-house” (in-house) means working for your company. Some companies are big, and they have their own lawyers and their own accountants. Smaller companies usually don’t, so they don’t have a lawyer in-house, inside of the company, who works full time, permanently for the company.

Ally says, “Jerry, you know that our firm will do its best to represent you.” So now we understand that Ally is someone who works for a company of lawyers – a group of lawyers. We call a group of lawyers “a group of thieves.” No, I’m just kidding! We call a group of lawyers a “firm” (firm). The law firm is a group of lawyers who work together. So Ally says that her firm will do its best to represent you. “To represent (someone)” in this case means to be their official representative. Really, here it just means to be their lawyer, to be their attorney, to be the person that will give them legal advice. Ally says, “You can count on me (you can rely on me or depend on me) and all of the attorneys in this office.” “Attorney” (attorney) is just another word for a lawyer, a little more formal word perhaps, but they mean the exact same thing. Ally says, “How about if I come to your office this afternoon and we can discuss it?” What do you think of that idea, “how about if…?”

Jerry says, “Okay, that’s great.” Ally says, “In the meantime (meaning until that happens), can you give me a brief rundown?” A “rundown” (rundown – one word) is a brief summary; a short summary or description of what happened, of some problem or some event. Jerry says, “Yeah, we’re being sued for negligence.” “Negligence” (negligence) is when you’re not careful, when you don’t do what you are supposed to do and then someone gets hurt because of it. So, if you’re a company and you have a door that’s broken and if you open it you could hurt yourself. So, someone comes to your building and they open your door and they hurt themselves, they might sue you for negligence. You should have been more careful; you should have taken care of the problem. Jerry says his company is being sued for negligence; it’s a class action suit. A “suit” (suit) is the legal action of suing someone. The term “class action” usually involves a court case with more than one person, usually a whole group of people who are suing you. Often, it can be an entire category of customers. So, some customers are mad about the way Starbucks serves its coffee, so they file a class action lawsuit – a class action suit. They’re representing all of the customers of Starbucks, that’s the idea.

Ally says, “All right. Can you fax or email the papers so I can see what they’re alleging?” “To allege” (allege) is to say that someone else did something wrong, to accuse someone else of doing something illegal or wrong. Jerry says, “Yes, I can do that (I can email you the papers). We really need your help with this, Ally. A lawsuit like this could ruin a company like ours.” A “lawsuit,” again, is just another word for a “suit,” which is the legal action that someone takes against you. When someone sues you, we say they have “filed a lawsuit.”

Ally says, “Don’t panic. We’ll take a look at it and see if there’s any merit in the case.” “Merit” (merit) is whether it’s of any value, if it’s worth anything, if it’s true. The word “merit” can also mean excellence, being good at something, or some accomplishment. Ally says, “It might just be a frivolous lawsuit.” Something that is “frivolous” (frivolous) is not serious, something that someone does but there isn’t a good reason to do it. A frivolous lawsuit would be someone suing you over something that isn’t true or isn’t very important.

Jerry says, “If they have a case (meaning if they might have some merit to their argument), you’ll have to find a loophole to get us out of this.” A “loophole” (loophole – one word) is a part of the law that is poorly written or it’s not very exact, it’s not very precise so that people can find a way to not break the law by finding some exception to law, by finding some vagueness or some imprecision in the law that allows them to still do something legally. Jerry says if there is a case here Ally and her law firm need to find a loophole, or, if they don’t, to negotiate a settlement. A “settlement” is when a company agrees usually to pay the person who is suing them some money. They say, “Okay, we won’t go to the judge, we won’t have a legal case, we’ll just pay you some money and then you’ll sign a paper saying, ‘I’m not going to sue you anymore.’” Jerry says, “The last thing I want is to go to court.” That means I don’t want to have a trial, I don’t want to go to a judge.

Ally says, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” “To get ahead of yourself” means to start planning or doing something before you should, before you really know what you’re doing, or before you know you should be doing it. I have a friend who wants to get his driver’s license. And even before he got his driver’s license, he went out and he was looking at cars to buy, and I told him, “Don’t get ahead of yourself,” meaning you can’t buy a car until you get your driver’s license, so don’t worry about that; start doing the things you should be doing about getting your driver’s license. That’s getting ahead of yourself.

Ally says, “Jerry?” and Jerry says, “Yeah?” Ally says, “try to lay off the coffee.” “To lay off” (lay off) is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to reduce the frequency or amount of something, to do something less. “To lay off (something)” is to do less of it, in this case to drink less coffee because Jerry’s getting all excited, and when you drink coffee you get more caffeine, which can get you more excited than you should be.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Ally: Hello, Ally McNeal.

Jerry: Ally, this is Jerry Mason. I need to talk to you right away. We’re being sued and we’ve just been served. This is one of those times I wish we had in-house counsel.

Ally: Jerry, you know that our firm will do its best to represent you, as we’ve done in the past. You can count on me and all of the attorneys in this office. How about if I come to your office this afternoon and we can discuss it?

Jerry: Okay, that’s great.

Ally: In the meantime, can you give me a brief rundown?

Jerry: Yeah, we’re being sued for negligence. In fact, it’s a class action suit against our company

Ally: All right. Can you fax or email me the papers so I can see what they’re alleging?

Jerry: Yes, I can do that. We really need your help with this, Ally. A lawsuit like this could ruin a company like ours.

Ally: Don’t panic. We’ll take a look at it and see if there’s any merit in the case. It might just be a frivolous lawsuit.

Jerry: If they have a case, you’ll have to find a loophole to get us out of this, or negotiate a settlement. The last thing I want is to go to court.

Ally: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ll discuss it this afternoon. And Jerry?

Jerry: Yeah?

Ally: In the meantime, try to lay off the coffee.

[end of dialogue]

We have the best in-house scriptwriter in podcasting; her name is Dr. Lucy Tse, and we thank her.

From Los Angeles, California, we thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan, copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
to sue – to take someone to court; to go to a legal court and ask the judge to make someone pay money for having done something wrong or illegal

* Meghan is suing her neighbor because his dog bit her son.

to be served – to officially receive legal papers or notification that one is required to appear in court

* Many court documents have to be served in person. They cannot be sent via fax or email.

in-house counsel – a lawyer who works for a company as an employee and provides legal advice to that company

* In the first few years of business, we worked with a law firm. As our company grew, we hired a few lawyers and now we only work with in-house counsel.

firm – business or company, especially a company that provides professional services

* Our consulting firm will help you minimize costs and maximize sales.

to represent (someone) – to speak on behalf of someone, especially in a legal courtroom, trying to help that person get what he or she wants or needs

* We’re paying you $300 an hour to represent us, so we expect you to know all the details of our case.

attorney – a lawyer; someone who is trained and educated in the law and is qualified and authorized to provide legal advice

* Trent wants to be an attorney, but he hasn’t decided whether he wants to specialize in business law or criminal law.

rundown – a brief summary of something; an overview; the highlights

* The first five minutes of the news program provide a rundown of the day’s major events.

negligence – failure to use the right amount of care or caution; not taking care of something as much as one should

* The house has broken windows and a hole in the roof, and is clearly suffering from the owner’s negligence.

class action – a court case involving one person or a small group of people who represent a much larger group of people

* Female employees of Wal-Mart charged the company with sex discrimination in a large civil action suit, Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

to allege – to make a statement that accuses someone of having done something; to say that someone has done something wrong or illegal

* Ms. Sanders alleges that Mr. Gonzales hit her car, but she has no proof.

lawsuit – court case; one instance of one person or company suing another person or company in a legal court

* Three years ago, the company was involved in a lawsuit for copyright infringement.

merit – value; goodness; worthiness

* Their proposal doesn’t seem to have much merit, so we’re still looking for other ideas.

frivolous – not serious; without a real or valuable purpose; unimportant

* As a teenager, Mariah was frivolous, only interested in makeup and dating, but her younger sister was very serious, always studying.

loophole – a part of a law that is poorly written and leaves an opportunity for one to do something that was not intended by the lawmakers

* The tax attorney found a loophole that saved her clients thousands of dollars.

settlement – an official agreement to end a lawsuit or disagreement, usually with one person paying another person, but often without admitting guilt or blame

* Even though Shane was innocent, he agreed to the settlement because he didn’t want to spend any more time or money on the court case.

to get ahead of (oneself) – to begin planning or doing something earlier than one should, before there is a clear need to do so

* You’ve only been on two dates with Jenna. Don’t you think you’re getting ahead of yourself by shopping for wedding rings?

to lay off – to reduce the amount or frequency of something; to start doing or having less of something

* Piotr has gained a lot of weight lately. He needs to lay off the French fries.

Comprehension Questions
1. What does Jerry wish?
a) He wishes he had stayed in the house.
b) He wishes he had a lawyer on staff.
c) He wishes he had listened to his lawyer’s advice.

2. What is a brief rundown?
a) A copy of the first page.
b) A very rapid reading of the entire document.
c) A summary of the most important points.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
rundown

The word “rundown,” in this podcast, means an overview or a brief summary of something: “A good movie review provides a rundown of the film and lets readers know whether the movie is worth seeing in the theater.” If a building is described as “run down,” it is not in good condition, usually old and falling apart: “The only apartments we can afford are really run down.” The phrase “run-down” can also describe someone who is very tired and does not have much energy: “The cancer treatments left Sebastian feeling run-down.” Finally, a “run-up” is a period of times immediately before something important happens: “Politicians spend a lot of money on television ads in the run-up to the presidential elections.”

to lay off

In this podcast, the phrase “to lay off” means to reduce the amount or frequency of something, or to start doing or having less of something: “The doctor said I should lay off high-salt foods if I want to lower my blood pressure.” The phrase “to lay off” also means to fire someone, or to tell someone that he or she no longer has a job: “When the company decided to close its manufacturing plant in Detroit, it had to lay off more than 400 workers.” In basketball, a “lay-up” is a move where a player throws a ball into a basket from a position under the basket or very close to it: “Ewan’s lay-up earned the winning point for the game.”

Culture Note
The LSAT

The “LSAT” is the “Law School Admission Test,” or the “standardized exam” (a test taken by people in many different places and at many different times, used for comparing the test-takers’ performance) for law school applicants. Most law schools require that students submit their LSAT scores with their application materials.

The LSAT is designed to determine the test-taker’s ability to succeed in law school. Specifically, the exam “assesses” (measures and evaluates) test-takers’ abilities in “reading comprehension” (ability to understand what one has read), “logical reasoning” (ability to analyze arguments) and “verbal reasoning” (ability to understand and express concepts in words).

The LSAT is “offered” (given; made available) four times each year. Test-takers complete five 35-minute “multiple choice” (questions followed by four or five answers to choose from, only one of which is correct) sections and a writing section. LSAT scores range from a low of 120 to a high of 180. Law schools generally use a student’s LSAT score in combination with his or her GPA (grade point average, a summary of grades received in all courses) to select students for “admission” (an invitation to study at a particular university).

Most students study for the LSAT by “completing practice exams” (taking old exams to calculate their score) and becoming more familiar with the “format” (style and organization) of the test. There are many “study guides” (books that help students study) and teaching centers that offer courses in LSAT preparation. Students who are “dissatisfied” (not pleased) with their test score can take the exam up to three times in two years, but all those scores are reported to the schools.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - c