In the United States today, the traditional legal system is often a sticky mess - it is complicated, time consuming, and very costly. Any certified lawyer is rarely available to work within the average person’s budget, and a good lawyer on a budget is even harder to find. There are not a lot of non-profit firms that can help people in need, and if someone with a lot of money screws over a person with less money, “justice” usually seems to land on the side of the highest bidder. Even if one can find an affordable and honest lawyer, the smallest claims can take months, even years to work out. As a result, it is estimated that over half the population in the United States is cut off from adequate resources to settle disputes, and it is because of this that many non-traditional forms of litigation have been popping up for quite some time. These alternatives offer settlements outside the court system. This way, settlements can be reached more quickly without expenses like court fees or attorney fees, which levels out the playing field. Recently, I was able to interview one of the pioneers of non-traditional litigation, Mark Deuitch, the founder of PeopleClaim.com. In our interview, he outlined how his organization has the potential to change the way individuals settle disputes and has already proven its relevance in today’s society.
Q: What is PeopleClaim.com and how did it start?
A: PeopleClaim’s goal is to empower consumers and citizens by providing a simple mechanism of dispute resolution that avoids the expense, risk, and complication of our current legal system. It started as a social experiment. We believed this was an ideal application for the Internet, one that could offer a more fair and equitable way to communicate both sides of a dispute or controversy in a public forum.
Q: Who can benefit from using your service?
A: Anyone with a dispute of any type, against anyone, anywhere. PeopleClaim can be used for everyday commercial disputes like overcharges, landlord/tenant disputes, and deceptive business practices, and can also be used for advocacy and public policy issues.
Q: Why does it work?
A: PeopleClaim works because public disclosure of bad business or unfair treatment has, in many cases, become a stronger motivation to fair resolution than traditional court or mediated processes. PeopleClaim gives businesses and individuals a chance to manage their online reputation through fair and prompt settlement of valid claims, or rebuttal of claims they disagree with. And this is a huge point: unlike some review sites, PeopleClaim is non-anonymous. Businesses appreciate the value of being able to deal with real consumers in a system that provides a chance to make things right before complaints go public.
Q: Can you help connect users to legal aid in the current system if you are unable to reach a settlement?
A: Lawyers and other legal resources can communicate directly with claimants on PeopleClaim to offer both free or paid services if the claim has not been resolved. We will be expanding this program in the second quarter of 2015 to provide a full spectrum of legal resources to help resolve any claim filed through the system.
Q: As a college student myself, how can you see PeopeClaim helping students?
A: We receive quite a few claims from students, many involving housing-related issues, as well as disputes with their schools and colleges and even with professors or staff. A key benefit for students is the savings in cost and time: a typical claim takes 10-15 minutes to file and costs anywhere from 0 to 20 dollars. This gives students a very efficient way to resolve disputes without detracting from their busy schedules. Students may find PeopleClaim useful for cases of unfair treatment, discrimination, harassment, or for effecting change in school policies. Students can also use PeopleClaim to research vendors like computer companies or airlines before making purchases, or check out potential employers.
Q: What is your current goal for the company and how can people at Cleveland State get involved?
A: There’s been little to no technological advance in the legal system for the last 200 years. Our goal is to provide an up-to-date alternative that helps simplify and disintermediate the process of dispute resolution. In our view, no one should have to pay thousands of dollars or hire intermediaries to resolve common commercial disputes with product or service providers, or other counterparties. We welcome students at Cleveland State to use PeopleClaim to resolve the disputes they may encounter in a constructive way, online. Additionally we welcome advocacy claims on issues of importance to society. We also have a program where students can help resolve claims filed by others as part of a pre-law or mediation-related internship. For more information on internships, students should contact email@example.com.
What PeopleClaim accomplishes is fairness. There’s no exclusion based on wealth or age, no court fees, no drawn out process; there are just solutions. The system is designed to give everyone a voice, and when a college student can tell a landlord or a bogus used cars salesmen they’re planning on going public with a case, their voice is a lot stronger. A system like this can ensure students and young adults aren’t the victims as much. So often, we’re taken advantage of because we’re considered naive. Maybe that’s part of growing up, but there’s a chance to create accountability here and protect the rights of the younger generation, and really, the rights of anybody.
On January 14th, the company went to the public with the shooting of a man named David Hooks by Laurens County police in Georgia who were using an inadequate warrant to search his house for drugs. There are more details about the case on the website, but the outcome of this dispute between Laurens County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia and the family of David Hooks could prove the effectiveness of this type of trial. If both parties can reach a fair settlement outside the traditional court system, this “social expirament” called PeopleClaim.com - along with other crowdsourced settlements - may just be the future of social justice in the U.S.
Details about David Hook’s case can be found at www.peopleclaim.com/online-trial/justice-for-david-hooks-2
More cases like it can be found at www.peopleclaim.com under the trial director.