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A fitting end to a stupid suit

By
June 27, 2007

The case of the $67 million pants — the plaintiff later generously knocked it down to $54 million — is over for the time being, but for a week or so it vied with Paris Hilton in the public attention paid to jurisprudence.

But this case was sadder than that of the jailbird heiress and also more serious.

The background: After three years of unemployment, Washington attorney Roy Pearson finally netted a good job and treated himself to a $1,000 suit. He took it to his local dry cleaners for $10.50 in alterations.

The proprietors, Soo and Jin Chung, couldn’t immediately find the pants, and when they did, Pearson said they weren’t his. He refused their offer to pay for a new pair of pants because the sign on their store said “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and he wasn’t satisfied. So he sued.

For two years Pearson, acting as his own attorney, pursued the Chungs through the courts, exhausting their savings. He turned down a $12,000 settlement offer. He wanted $67 million. The sad fact of this case is that the $67 million, while ludicrous, was not implausibly arrived at given the accumulating compensatory and punitive damages in the capital’s consumer-protection laws and Pearson’s generous assessment of his own value as a lawyer.

And to Pearson it was also the principle of the matter. “Never before in recorded history have a group of defendants engaged in such misleading and unfair business practices,” he wrote in one filing.

Once the case came to trial, Judge Judith Bartnoff, noting Pearson’s disregard for facts and lack of reasonableness, ruled that he was entitled to “no compensation whatsoever.” The judge was a refreshing, if belated, voice of common sense and reason, but everything else involved with the case suffered.

The biggest loser might have been the American legal system because the case brought reporters from all over the world to exclaim about its ridiculous excesses.

The Chungs were awarded court costs, perhaps somewhere between $1,000 and $5,000, but they will have to sue to recover their tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs. And the single-minded Pearson can yet appeal.

As for Pearson, he was awaiting reappointment to another term as a $96,000-a-year administrative law judge. He very likely is now not going to get it. And because of the publicity over his pants, he is probably unemployable as a lawyer.

But there is yet a role for him — as poster child in the cause of tort reform.

4 Responses to A fitting end to a stupid suit

  1. Joe Lawrence

    June 27, 2007 at 9:48 am

    Poster child for tort reform?

    Dale McFeatters must know that those who most agressively seek tort reform care not one whit about the likes of Sue and Jim Chung or, even, the special kind of mean-spiritedness of a Roy Pearson. What they care about is making the power structure (of which they are just certain they are a part), whether represented by Big Insurance, Big Pharma, Big Industry, Big Imports, Big Exports or Big Politics, immune from accountability.

    The ever-increasing disparity between the extremes of our class system are traceable directly to the growing lack of redress for wrongs by the higher against the lower, and those who would further suppress accountability revel in this situation to such a degree that they see only merit in making the situation worse, while the downside seems to escape their notice.

    They should know, though, that once some tipping point is reached between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ the time will come when all of the police powers in the world will be helpless to prevent the ‘have-nots’ from simply taking, by whatever means then deemed necessary, that which their familes need for sustenance directly from the nearest ‘haves.’

    Simply put, if you are seriously wronged by Big Anything/Anybody, and you have no legal recourse, there is only extra-legal recourse remaining to you, and current trends are creating many more ‘have-nots’ than ‘haves.’ This is a lesson learned too late by General George Armstrong Custer.

    Joe Lawrence

  2. gary6003

    June 27, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Where are the rules by the ABA regarding attorneys or judges from ruining peoples lives with litigation that is nearly free for the practitioner? People like this contribute greatly to the bad reputation they Attorneys have. He should be disbarred and fined commensurate with the damage he caused to the defendant with this frivolous suit.

    To be fair he should be reimbursed for the cost of the suit if it can be determined that the pants he received were different than what was returned to him. Being a $1,000 suit it would be hard to find a “replacement” designer suit as a subsitutue.

  3. www.nazilieskill.us

    June 28, 2007 at 10:31 am

    The media is very good at changing the subject from the important (which concerns institutions and their corruption) to the unimportant which only concerns personalities and anecdotal stories. Generally speaking, this site seems to know the difference and tends to concern itself with our institutions. This story is border-line, but not totally without merit.

    John Hanks, Laramie, Wyoming

  4. Donnat

    June 28, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    The Chungs should report him to the bar.

    They might slap his wrist, but at least he goes down as reported, and that might steer a few potential clients away from him.

    Judges are lawyers and it takes the more gutsy ones to police the idiots like Pearson.
    Donnat