Pants guy loses

Predictably enough, Roy Pearson has been “pantsed” by the District Court of Columbia over his claim for US$65M for a pair of (allegedly) missing pants. A copy of the judgment is here.

Page 19 of the judgment states:

The plaintiff’s claims regarding the “Satisfaction Guaranteed” sign are premised on his interpretation that the sign is an unconditional and unlimited warranty of satisfaction to the customer, as determined solely by the customer, without regard to the facts or to any notion of reasonableness. The plaintiff confirmed at trial that in his view, if a customer brings in an item of clothing to be dry cleaned, and the dry cleaner remembers the item, and the customer then claims that the item is not his when the dry cleaner presents it back to the customer after it has been cleaned, the cleaner must pay the customer whatever the customer claims the item is worth if there is a “Satisfaction Guaranteed” sign in the store, even if the dry cleaner knows the customer is mistaken or lying.

The judgment continues on pages 19 – 20:

A reasonable consumer would not interpret “Satisfaction Guaranteed” to mean that a merchant is required to satisfy a customer’s unreasonable demands or to accede to demands that the merchant has reasonable grounds to dispute. To the extent that the plaintiff’s claims of unfair trade practices are based on his contention that the “Satisfaction Guaranteed” sign required the defendants to accede to his demands regarding his allegedly missing pants, despite the defendants’ reasonable belief that they had produced the same pants that he had brought in for alterations, those claims must fail.

Similarly, the defendants’ acknowledgement that they did not interpret “Satisfaction Guaranteed” to require them to meet any customer’s unreasonable demand does not constitute an unfair trade practice under any of the provisions of the CPPA invoked by the plaintiff.

Naturally, the defendants were entitled to costs, and have also filed an application seeking sanctions, including attorney’s fees, pursuant to Rule 11 of the Supreme Court Rules of Civil Procedure, which will be heard after the trial.

All’s well that end’s well, then? Not quite, suggests Olu Oguibe in an interesting post on his site, Frankly Speaking. He notes that the judge did not specify what about Pearson’s conduct was unreasonable, and suggests that the judgment is bad for customers and consumers. He argues that it was reasonable for Pearson to expect his pants back by the due date, and to get compensation for those pants if they were in fact lost. I think this is a good point.

As Oguibe notes, there was a kernel of a reasonable complaint in there somewhere, but it got lost because Pearson made his claims in such an unattractive, aggressive and totally over-the-top manner. It is irritating if something isn’t ready by the time specified. I drove to pick up some shoes the other Friday. The shoe repairer is about a half an hour drive away from my house, and not in the vicinity of anywhere I would ordinarily visit. With a small child in tow, it’s an expedition. Although they’d told me the shoes would be ready by the Thursday, they were not ready by then, or the day after. I was irritated at making the drive out there. But I’m not about to file a claim for $64M against them. It would be nice if they acknowledged the inconvenience, or even took a few bucks off the repair fee for all the petrol I’ve used getting there and back again, but that’s about all I’d expect.

Obviously, Pearson’s subsequent actions were unreasonable in the extreme, including the extraordinarily exorbitant damages claims, the claims for emotional distress and suffering and the car hire fees. But Oguibe is right: I think the judgment should perhaps have drawn the distinction between Pearson’s initial legitimate complaint and his subsequent extremely unreasonable complaints.

It’s a bit of a sad case. It must have been awful for the Chungs to have to go through the ordeal of a trial with very little merit. On the other hand, Pearson seems to be a bit of a sad character, who has become obsessed with his legal action and turned into a vexatious litigant (a la Bleak House). Pearson has already indicated he will appeal, of course. It’s a lose-lose situation, really.

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10 Comments

Filed under consumer affairs, courts, crazy stuff, law, society, USA

10 responses to “Pants guy loses

  1. fairlane

    I’d love to know the guy’s politics. Could this be a stunt to try and bring about more “Tort Reform?”

    Surely he’s not this stupid.

  2. GavinM

    I read in the MX — (I know it’s not the world’s greatest publication, but it’s free)– that Pearson said if he won the case he would keep $2.95 million and use the rest to “encourage others to initiate similar court cases”…The bloke sounds like a real fruitloop to me…

  3. pete m

    OT – I’d call them before travelling 30 minutes based solely on a promise – that $0.25 could save a lot of $ and time.

    I would have found in favour of the judge, and awarded him $100.00 in compensation for the lost trousers, and costs against him for failing to settle it out of Court.

    Hysterical moonbat!

  4. A good result for common sense but knowing the way the US court system works what is the bet that there will be an appeal?

  5. Fairlane, before he was a judge, the guy was actually a consumer advocate. Highly unlikely he’s a stooge for the insurers! But ironically, while he purports to be wanting to help wronged consumers, he’s doing them a massive disservice, maybe resulting in less rights for people with legitimate claims.

    Yep, Iain, there’s already an appeal in the pipeline.

    Pete M, I like the way you think. $1000 bucks for the trousers and the inconvenience of not having them there on the day, and then a giant costs order for the rest. I think he’s really a bit of a sick puppy. The Chungs must be ruing the day he walked into their store.

  6. fairlane

    Nutcases screw it up for everyone.

    Some guy’s going to get his legged sawed off at the Home Depot and he’ll $50 and and a set of screwdrivers because of this crap.

    And the so-called “liberal media” played the hell out of this story to get everyone nice and riled.

    Reps are smacking their collective lips.

  7. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  8. Sound analysis LE & Oguibe hit a few nails on the head too. The judge appears to have failed to establish a sufficiently binding legal precedent in his decision which would have prevented future such actions progressing this far. Pardon my ignorance but in Victoria someone can be declared a vexatious litigant which I think results in their action being dismissed and possible future actions too. Is this correct? And if it is, does such a remedy exist in US law?

  9. Absolutely, in Victoria, someone can be declared a vexatious litigant, which means that they have to get the leave of the Court before filing any new action.

    I don’t know if there’s a similar rule in DC, but I’d presume so. I think you’d need to file a few more actions than Pearson has – Courts are reluctant to ban people from their right to bring legal action…

  10. LE: Sorry to go OT, but can you check your email ASAP? Thanks.

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