A reader sent me this crazy story about a US Judge, Roy Pearson, who is suing a drycleaning business for over US $65 million for losing a pair of gray pants. No, there’s no typo there, he really is suing for $65M+.
How did this arise? In early 2005, Pearson was appointed as an Administrative Law Judge for the District of Columbia Office of Administrative Hearings, and wanted to alter his suits. On 3 May 2005, Pearson dropped off his pants at a dry cleaning business known as Custom Cleaners, run by Jin Nam, Ki and Soo Chung, immigrants from South Korea. Pearson put the pants in for alterations costing $10.50, and hoped that the pants would be ready by 5 May 2006, as he started his new job on 6 May. At that time, Custom Cleaners had two signs on its walls which read, “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” and “Same Day Service.” When he turned up on 5 May 2006, the pants were not ready. Soo Chung said they would be ready the next morning, but they could not be found. Pearson initially sought damages of $1,500, for the full cost of the suit.
Ironically, a week later, the Chungs found gray pants which have a tag matching Pearson’s ticket receipt. The measurements also match up to Pearson’s measurements. They phoned Pearson to let him know, and said that as the trousers had been found, they would not pay him the $1,500 he had requested. That’s when the problems started.
Pearson claims that the gray trousers are not his, and his original pair of trousers were gray with a red and blue pinstripe. He alleges that the Chungs have perpetrated fraud, negligence, and their claims of satisfaction guaranteed and same day service are a scam. Naturally, the Chungs have since taken down the signs.
How did he get to a claim of $65M, you might be wondering? Well, according to the initial article in The Washington Post…
- The consumer protection law of the District of Columbia provides for damages of $1,500 per violation per day. Pearson alleges that there were 12 violations over 1,200 days, and that each of the three defendants should pay damages.
- Pearson says that the Chungs should pay him the cost of hiring a car for every weekend for 10 years. He does not presently have a car, and he says that there is no other dry cleaner within walking distance. Therefore, he alleges that the Chungs’ negligence has caused him to have the need to hire a car every weekend so that he can drop his suits off at a different drycleaner.
- Pearson says he should be compensated for his “mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort”.
- He claims costs for the 1,000 hours representing himself.
- Finally, he claims the cost of a new suit.
- He also sought to prove violations of consumer protection laws on behalf of all residents in the District. Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz responded sharply, saying that “the court has significant concerns that the plaintiff is acting in bad faith” because of “the breathtaking magnitude of the expansion he seeks.”
The Chungs’ lawyer, Chris Manning, said that they had offered Manning said the cleaners made three settlement offers of $3,000, then $4,600, then $12,000. He says the Chungs are so dispirited that they are considering returning to Korea. The trial is due to proceed on 11 June 2007.
Former National Labors Relations Board chief administrative law judge Melvin Welles wrote a letter to The Washington Post:
“As a lawyer and former administrative law judge, I am particularly aggrieved by District administrative law judge Roy Pearson’s $65 million lawsuit against Custom Cleaners after the neighborhood dry cleaner misplaced one pair of his pants. The manifest absurdity of it is too obvious to require explanation.
If I were adjudicating the case, I would not only grant a motion to dismiss it but would also order Mr. Pearson to reimburse the owners of Custom Cleaners for all their expenses in defending it and to pay them several million dollars for their “mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort.”
I would also direct any bar to which Mr. Pearson belongs to immediately disbar him and the District to remove him from his position as an administrative law judge. Perhaps a class action by the D.C. Bar Association for the damage he has done to the legal profession might also be appropriate.”
The president of the American Tort Reform Association, Sherman Joyce, has written a letter suggesting that the Judges who are considering renewing Pearson’s 10-year appointment should not do so. The Association has also offered to buy Pearson the suit of his choice. The Chief Administrative Judge for the District of Columbia had no comment regarding Pearson’s reappointment. Mr Joyce says this is precisely the sort of vexatious tort litigation which needs to be curbed. He has also endorsed Melvin Welles’ comments in a letter to The Examiner.
One’s first reaction is to laugh with disbelief, but there is a very serious side to this story. I agree with Mr Welles; it is Pearson who should recompense the Chung family for mental anguish and suffering. This is a disgusting abuse of the legal system, and a clear instance of someone with legal knowledge using it to oppress and bully parties with less resources and money. Such a person is entirely unsuited for the position of judicial office. If Pearson has any decency (although I suspect he does not) he should step down from office. He is an embarrassment to lawyers everywhere.