Choosing Sides: On the Manipulation of Civil Litigation

Yotam Kaplan*, Ittai Paldor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our litigation system is broken. Scholars have long warned that professional litigants, such as debt-collecting firms, insurance companies, and commercial landlords, enjoy immense and unfair advantages over private individuals. What has gone unnoticed is professional litigants’ ability to manipulate their litigatory position—that is, to choose whether they will litigate as plaintiffs or defendants. Extant literature assumes that the parties’ litigatory positions are determined by the substance of the dispute: the party seeking a remedy is the plaintiff, and the party objecting to the award of a remedy is the defendant. We show that, in reality, professional litigants have both the incentive and the ability to switch between positions at will, assuming whichever litigatory role best serves their interests under given circumstances. These litigants essentially choose which side of the “v.” they prefer to be on. This choice allows professional litigants to reshape litigatory interactions, secure easy victories against private individuals, and hinder the fair and equal adjudication of disputes. Based on this observation, this Article makes three novel and important contributions. First, it reconceptualizes our understanding of the litigatory landscape. The Article challenges the existing understanding of the litigation system by deconstructing the traditional plaintiff-defendant dichotomy and highlighting the malleability of the litigatory setting. Second, it draws attention to the implications of professional litigants’ manipulation tactics. Finally, it proposes legal reforms designed to balance the scales and update the institutions of litigation to the current reality, in which most legal disputes occur between private individuals on one side and professional adversaries on the other.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1211-1261
Number of pages51
JournalVanderbilt Law Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2024

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