[EDITOR’S UPDATE: There is a verdict: click here for blog on the good news of a VERDICT in Pearson v. Chang.]
If Roy Pearson did not exist, advocates of tort reform would invent him. Mr. Pearson is a lawyer – an administrative law judge actually – who brought a lawsuit against his neighborhood dry cleaner when they misplaced his pants. Two years, over 1000 hours of Mr. Pearson’s time, thousands of pages of legal pleadings and discovery later, Pearson continues his battle against the dry cleaner. His complaint seeks $65,462,500 from the dry cleaner, including compensation for such things as “mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort,” for the value of the time he has spent on the lawsuit, and, my favorite, for leasing a car every weekend for 10 years because there is no dry cleaner close to his house. If you didn’t get that the first time, this is over a single misplaced pair of pants.
The Insanity of the Claims
How did Pearson arrive at this number? He sought $500,000 in lawyer’s fees, $2 million for pain and suffering and $15,000 because he needed to rent a car to go to another dry cleaner. I’m tempted to respond to these damages but you really can’t fight crazy. What about the remaining $50 million? That was a part of his class action on behalf of lost pants sufferers from this dry cleaner everywhere. The dry cleaner denied the plaintiff’s allegations, insisting that the pants they gave him are the same pants he brought in to be altered. But let’s face it. It is an incredible hassle to be sued with insurance. So the the dry cleaner has offered $12,000 to settle the case. But Pearson pluged forward seeking a big pay day for his lost pants.
How This Case Turned Out
People don’t understand this but it is not that amazing that this case got filed. We have 312 million people in this country and nearly a million lawyers. Some crazy things are going to happen. But even when the case became public, you would think friends and family and his own conscious would intervene. Judge Pearson (was he ever called that?) kept plugging ahead with full steam. Ultimately, the system works, at least a little. District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff ruling in favor of the dry cleaners. Naturally, Pearson appealed and appealed but ultimately got no where.
The Impact of this Case on Tort Reform
Why do I say that tort reform advocates would invent Pearson? This is a consumer claim not a personal injury claim. But, believe me, personal injury lawyers face the consequences of this kind of nonsense every single time we pick a jury. This makes jurors more skeptical of people bringing claims of any kind, including accident and medical malpractice cases. Personal injury victims deserve a jury who is willing to evaluate a case with no preconceived notions. The publicity generated by this kind of case makes getting that fair jury more difficult.
- Appellate opinion in the Pearson v. Chang