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56 Def. Counsel J. 110 (1989)
Litigation Response Syndrome: How Stress Confuses the Issues

handle is hein.journals/defcon56 and id is 112 raw text is: LITIGATION RESPONSE SYNDROME:
People involved in litigation may become frustrated and emotionally disturbed.
Defense counsel should be alert to the consequences for their case


FOR MANY people litigation is a deeply frus-
trating and emotionally disturbing experience.
As I noted in the American Journal of Forensic
Psychology, litigation is often so troublesome
that it leads to Litigation Response Syndrome,
known as LRS, which is a group of stress prob-
lems caused by the process of litigation. LRS is
made up of complaints that arise solely from the
experience of being personally involved in a
lawsuit, rather than from the events that precip-
itated the litigation. It is an ephemeral conse-
quence of litigation, not a permanent problem,
and needs to be distinguished from allegedly en-
during problems it resembles.
Many attorneys are aware of LRS intuitively
without recognizing its full impact on the law-
suits for which they are responsible. For exam-
ple, LRS resembles complaints that are listed
among the damages in personal injury and work-
ers' compensation claims, especially stress
cases and cases involving chronic pain or disa-
bility. It is quite similar, for example, to com-
plaints reported in toxic tort litigation,
cancerphobia and fear of future harm. It can
contaminate evaluations in criminal and family
law, when the person being evaluated by a psy-
chologist is upset primarily about the lawsuit,
rather than suffering from a permanent mental
disorder. LRS also can interfere with the capac-
ity of people in lawsuits to act effectively in their
own and society's interests.
As a result of LRS symptoms, a plaintiff who
has recovered from the injury on which the law-
suit was based will not be identified as having re-
covered. Defendants in criminal or family cases
can be so terrified and emotionally traumatized
by the litigation that they appear to have mental
disorders. Yet the complaints associated with
LRS are temporary; they disappear after settle-
ment. LRS confuses some of the most funda-

. Paul R. Lees-Haley, Ph.D., is a diplomate
of the American Board of Professional Psy-
chology and of the American Board of Voca-
tional Experts. He operates a consulting
service based in Encino, California.
mental issues of litigation that require
evaluations of individuals, issues such as dam-
ages, competency, fitness as a parent and so on.
Differentiation of the litigated injury from LRS
in personal injury and workers' compensation
claimants is further complicated by the tendency
of these claimants to deny pre-injury problems
and emphasize post-injury complaints, as noted
in previous research.
LRS helps to explain other troubling behavior
patterns we observe in the course of lawsuits.
For example, LRS is a partial explanation for the
symptom development pattern of claimants who
are injured, make a recovery and then become
worse immediately after meeting an attorney
who wishes to represent them. It also helps us to
understand the puzzling observation that very
nice, honest people who ordinarily would not
dream of cheating or lying, sometimes will
grossly exaggerate or misrepresent the extent of
their injury in a lawsuit. The answer is that they
are not totally aware that they are misrepresent-
ing things because they are disturbed by the in-
tense pressure of litigation. They cope with a
confusing situation by doing things that are out
of character. Granted, they are influenced by re-
wards such as money, retirement, escape from
boring or obnoxious work, freedom to help care
for family members, as examples. But some be-
haviors that might appear on the surface to be
purely malingering or fraud are in reality stress
responses to litigation.
The fact that human beings under stress some-
times make inaccurate claims is not a mysterious
experience. For example, every parent is aware
that children do not know how to evaluate their

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