This is a story about a man seeking a pound of flesh. If you haven’t heard, on Monday a judge threw out a lawsuit seeking $54 million for a pair of pants that a dry cleaners lost. To make matters worse, the pantsless plaintiff is an Administrative Law Judge. Now, in all fairness to him, they were his favorite pair of pants. The sad part of this story is the owner of the dry cleaners, who has paid about $100,000 to defend this frivolous lawsuit. The really stupid part of this story is that the plaintiff, Roy L. Pearson, actually rejected a $12,000 offer to settle the case. $12,000 for a stinking pair of pants! The question now is who is to blame for this mess? I believe the blame is not with the justice system. It’s not with the judge or the lawyers. The blame should and does rest entirely with Roy L. Pearson.
The theory of the case was that the dry cleaners promised “Satisfaction Guaranteed.” When Mr. Pearson wasn’t satisfied, he sued. So how did he come with the $54 Million claim? Good question. The consumer protection law provides for a $1,500 per day fine for violations. So the plaintiff added up a lot of days times $1,500, threw in some mental anguish and attorney’s fees (he represented himself), and now you have a $54 million claim for a pair of pants.
Some could say that the judge should have thrown out the case sooner. Maybe. But this case is not about our justice system, as one Georgetown University law professor has suggested. If anything, our justice system did the right thing. This lawsuit is about a man, and a judge no less, who was willing to put a hard working family through a lot of financial and emotional pain over a silly pair of pants. That family is seeking an order requiring Mr. Pearson to pay their legal expenses. The only possible fault one could level against the justice system here will come if the judge doesn’t grant that motion.
Published or updated February 14, 2013.