Monday, June 25, 2007

Smarty-Pants Lawyer Loses His Suit (and Trousers)

Did you hear the one about the lawyer who claimed the drycleaner lost his trousers?

He sued HIS pants off the cleaners.

To the tune of 54 million dollars.

Thank goodness he's not going to get one penny of it.

Some pants.

Some lawyer.

Wait, wait….that was a cheap shot at lawyers. Let me correct myself.

Roy L. Pearson is a judge. Who should be upholding the law, not perverting it for personal gain.

Two years ago, Pearson took several suits to his drycleaner in Washington for alterations. When he came to pick them up a couple of days later, one pair of trousers was missing.

The drycleaners said they found the missing trousers a few days later and tried to return them, but Mr Pearson insisted they were not his. Pearson complained to the Chungs, the South Korean family that owns and operates Custom Cleaners in the District of Columbia.

In his first letter, Pearson sought $1,150 for a new suit. Two lawyers and many legal bills later, the Chungs offered Pearson $3,000, then $4,600 and, finally, $12,000 to settle the case.

But that didn’t satisfy Pearson. Peek into the hundreds of pages of legal wrangling and you will find the heart of his heart of his complaint. Custom Cleaners at that time had two big signs on its walls. One said "Satisfaction Guaranteed," and the other said, "Same Day Service."

He was not satisfied. And he did not get his pants back on the same day or, for that matter, on any day.

This, he says, amounts to fraud, negligence and a scam.

Being a lawyer/judge, Pearson sued.

The Washington Post’s Marc Fisher reports: “The District's consumer protection law provides for damages of $1,500 per violation per day. Pearson started multiplying: 12 violations over 1,200 days, times three defendants” (i.e. three members of the Chung family)

Pearson’s lawsuit also included a bill for 1400 hours he says he spent preparing the case. (What kind of an incompetent lawyer needs that much time to ask for a pair of stupid pants? That said so much more about Pearson than it did about the Chungs!)

Poor baby.

The judge says he deserves millions for the damages he suffered by not getting his pants back, for his litigation costs, for "mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort," for the value of the time he has spent on the lawsuit.

But wait – there’s more! Pearson also added the cost of renting a car every weekend to enable him to drive to an alternative dry-cleaner's for the next 10 years. Why should the drycleaner pay Pearson $15,000 so he can rent a car every weekend for 10 years?

Pearson’s reason: as a result of poor service, he must find another cleaner. And because he doesn’t have a car, he says he will have to rent one to get his clothes taken care of.

Incidentally, the original alteration work on the pants cost $10.50.

This idiocy came to an end today.

DC Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff ruled that Pearson is entitled to precisely: nothing. Why? He had one year to prove his claims of common law fraud with clear, convincing and unequivocal evidence. “He has not proven those claims by a preponderance of the evidence, let alone by that higher standard. Judgment therefore will be awarded to the defendants, as well as their costs." (Source: Emil Steiner of the Washington Post)

The Chungs’ lawyer, Chris Manning, said that the protracted case had transformed the family's American dream into "the American nightmare." It has cost them tens of thousands of dollars to defend this case.

In a closet of a lawyer's office in downtown Washington, there is a pair of gray wool pants, waiting to be picked up by Roy Pearson.

"We believe the pants are his," says Manning. "The tag matches his receipt."

Miscellaneous: Custom Cleaners has a legal defense fund.

A Google search shows many calls to disbar Pearson.

You can read some opinions on this case at Overlawyered. Read comments on Marc Fisher's article here.