Claims of legal rights and interests: The problems presented by automation and bulk processing

Whenever and wherever a claim of a legal right or interest is made, there is an implicit representation:  that the party making the claim has a legal basis for it, has admissible evidence and a good faith argument in support of the claim.  Courts exist to take legal claims seriously.  The U.S. Postal Service does not.

We are looking for but have not yet found evidence of the approximate number of out-of- court legal claims – assertions and denials of rights, especially relating to insurance – that are deposited in the mail every day.  Our guess is hundreds of thousands. Many of them are produced by automated systems using databases to populate pre-printed forms or letters.  Many of them, although they bear a signature, are never read or signed by a human being.  They are just processed as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible.  To our knowledge, with the possible exception of bad faith laws and laws criminalizing the use of the postal service to commit a crime, there are few rules regulating the out-of-court assertion or denial of legal rights and interests in letters and pre-printed forms deposited with the U.S. Postal Service.   Carelessness is permitted.  Credability is not required. Bulk processing of claims and denials appears intended to thin the herd, to get a result with little cost.

By contrast lawyers filing papers in court are subject to sensible if rarely enforced rules of ethics. “A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.” Conn. Rule Prof. Conduct 3.1

When assessing out-of-court claims of legal rights and interests received via the mail, lawyers should consider whether there is a difference between an assertion of a claim and evidence of a claim.