Nonpersonal lawsuits: Should s Christian sue a company?
September 11, 2002
Although in part one of "Should a Christian Sue?" we concluded that it would not be a good example of Christ-like character for a Christian to sue another individual, is the same standard advised in dealing with a business, corporation, or insurance company? Many lawsuits are initiated because of personal loss suffered due to the negligence or deceit of a company or business. Should Christians pursue such matters into the secular courts?
Larry writes in his book, Business by the Book, "Since there were no corporations in existence when the Bible was written, the best we can do is relate the principle to the closest parallel of that time: a government agency.
"It seems clear from the book of Acts that Paul recognized both the authority and the responsibility of the government of Rome. Twice, when he was falsely arrested, he relied on application of Roman law to regain his freedom. He also clearly used the implied threat of using that law to punish his antagonists (Acts 16:37). When he was falsely accused by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and jailed by the Roman authorities he appealed to the law of Rome to defend himself. The Roman government was an entity, not a person, so Paul felt he was clearly within his rights to use Roman law against that entity." 1
A corporation or business is also an entity, not a person. Although the entity may be controlled and often solely owned by a person, it appears that a corporation or business has no rights under biblical guidelines, except the rights of prevailing law. Therefore, to sue a corporation in order to require that it meet its legal responsibilities is not unbiblical.2
However, before a Christian decides to sue a corporation or any entity, they need to be certain of their grounds and their motives. They need to be certain that their reasons for initiating any kind of lawsuit are legitimate, lawful, moral, and biblical. They also need to be willing to abandon any action if God so directs. We are told in Hebrews 13:5, "Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have." It is easy to look at any corporation or business with an air of detachment when it comes to suing. God always judges our attitudes, and just because something is allowable does not mean that it is the right thing to do (1 Corinthians 6:12).
What about suing an insurance company? Philippians 2:3 says, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:3-4). The counsel that most Christians receive is to sue an insurance company for loss, as well as punitive damages.3 However, God’s Word clearly states that we should not seek revenge for being wronged (see Leviticus 19:18, Deuteronomy 32:35). That would include suing for more than the amount of actual loss or suing just to make a point. Remember, God said through His servant Paul, in Colossians 3:13, "Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you."
An insurance company is much like a corporation; therefore, there are no biblical restrictions concerning suing an insurance company. However, if Christians choose to sue, they should sue for only the actual amount of their loss: medical expenses, repairs, loss of income, loss of transportation, loss of equipment, property loss or damage, cost of medical services, and travel time.4
With regard to suing a hospital because of the hospital or doctor’s negligence, a hospital has liability insurance to cover incidents that result from the negligence of one of its employees. One reason medical insurance is so high is that so many people sue for things that were never under anyone’s control or were not caused by one person’s negligence. A hospital cannot contractually pay a settlement unless law demands them to pay (suit).
It is permissible to sue for hospital costs, rehabilitation, therapy, compensation for loss of wages while unable to work, or the costs of any surgery required to correct a condition caused by the negligence of the hospital or of a physician. However, suing for punitive damages or suing in order to punish the hospital or physician should not be pursued.
Is it biblically lawful for a Christian to sue a company for a debt that is owed them? Scripturally, a Christian would not be prohibited from suing a company for the collection of a lawful debt. That does not mean that a Christian should exercise that right. The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:23, "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify." All means, short of a lawsuit, should be pursued first. If the company still will not fulfill its legal commitments, then you might consider legal action.
Although there does not appear to be any scriptural restrictions preventing a Christian from suing a corporation, business, or insurance company, Christians need to pray for peace that they are not trying to be vindictive or trying to get excessive amounts. Negotiating an amount that covers losses, costs incurred as a result of negligence, or any future losses that may incur, is always advisable when considering legal action. But realizing that God is the ultimate Provider, not the corporation or insurance company, is the balance that conforms to God’s Word. Although corporations and insurance companies do need to be held accountable for their negligence, a Christian’s attitude, and his or her submission to the will of God is what is most critical.
1 Larry Burkett, Business by the Book
2 Larry Burkett, Principles Under Scrutiny, "To Sue or Not to Sue"
4 Larry Burkett, Using Your Money Wisely