A Washington DC administration judge is suing a family owned dry cleaning company for $67 million dollars for losing his pants. This case represents everything that’s wrong with our judicial system today:
A $10 dry cleaning bill for a pair of trousers has ballooned into a $67 million civil lawsuit.
Plaintiff Roy Pearson, a judge in Washington, D.C., says in court papers that he’s been through the ringer over a lost pair of prized pants he wanted to wear on his first day on the bench.
He says in court papers that he has endured “mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort.”
He says he was unable to wear that favorite suit on his first day of work.
He’s suing for 10 years of weekend car rentals so he can transport his dry cleaning to another store.
The lawsuit is based in large part on Pearson’s seemingly pained admission that he was taken in by the oldest and most insidious marketing tool in the dry cleaning industry arsenal.
Pearson did not return numerous calls from ABC News for comment.
It’s the kind of lawsuit that makes liability reform advocates’ temples throb.
“People in America are now scared of each other,” legal expert Philip Howard told ABC News’ Law & Justice Unit. “That’s why teachers won’t put an arm around a crying child, and doctors order unnecessary tests, and ministers won’t meet with parishioners. It’s a distrust of justice and it’s changing our culture.”
This is how Judge Pearson is getting the number of $67 million:
According to court papers, here’s how Pearson calculates the damages and legal fees:
He believes he is entitled to $1,500 for each violation, each day during which the “Satisfaction Guaranteed” sign and another sign promising “Same Day Service” was up in the store — more than 1,200 days.
And he’s multiplying each violation by three because he’s suing Jin and Soo Chung and their son.
He also wants $500,000 in emotional damages and $542, 500 in legal fees, even though he is representing himself in court.
He wants $15,000 for 10 years’ worth of weekend car rentals as well.
Judge Pearson is up for reappointment to a 10 year term and a salary, affording him the opportunity to purchase many other gray trousers. Sherman Joyce writing in the Washington Examiner yesterday is asking the men who make up the Commission on Selection and Tenure of Administrative Law Judges to reconsider Judge Pearson’s appointment, citing this lawsuit as an example of his awful judgment and vindictive nature:
Dear Judge Butler and Commissioners Rigsby, Levine and Wilner:
On behalf of the American Tort Reform Association, which works to combat lawsuit abuse, I urge you to carefully reconsider the reappointment of Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson Jr. to a 10-year term, scheduled to commence in three days on May 2.
As you are almost surely aware by now, thanks to extensive local and national media coverage, Judge Pearson has chosen to exploit the District’s well-intentioned but loosely worded Consumer Protection and Procedures Act in suing a family-owned D.C. dry cleaner for more than $65 million — over a lost pair of suit pants.
Though the pants have long since been found and made available to him, Judge Pearson has stubbornly continued to waste precious Superior Court resources in a clearly misguided effort to extort a hardworking family that provides a service to its community and tax revenue to the District government.
In a letter to the editor in today’s Washington Post, former National Labors Relations Board chief administrative law judge Melvin Welles urged “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.”
To those of us who carefully study the litigation industry’s growing abuse of consumer protection laws around the country (see ATRA general counsel Victor Schwartz’s recent article from Executive Counsel magazine, “Consumer Protection Acts Are a Springboard for Lawsuit Abuse,” enclosed) and to everyday D.C. taxpayers who collectively provide Pearson with a considerable salary, his persistence in this lawsuit raises serious question about his capacity to serve the city as a “fair, impartial, effective, and efficient” judge, as required by the Office of Administrative Hearings Establishment Act.
If Pearson goes ahead with his lawsuit, any party who comes before him in future administrative hearings could understandably lack confidence in his judgment and judicial temperament. Furthermore, this case will become fodder for late-night comics, various members of Congress and other assorted critics of D.C. government if this case, scheduled for trial June 11, remains in the headlines.
Judicial temperament is a critical characteristic of an outstanding jurist. Any individual who chooses to pursue a case such as Pearson’s, at a minimum, calls into question his or her’s. As you consider his reappointment, we strongly urge you to examine closely his judicial temperament and decide whether it is sufficient to serve the people of the District of Columbia properly as an administrative law judge.