As we’ve covered, Roy Pearson lost his $67 million lawsuit against his dry cleaners. Predictably, Bizarro-Overlawyered is trumpeting the outcome as evidence that the system works, that the “system has effective, built-in checks against such things.” I doubt many Overlawyered readers buy into that spin, but just in case, here are a few reminders about this case that, to the extent it had any merit at all, should have been a small claims suit:
- The Chungs offered Pearson $12,000 to drop this suit. If he had not been so greedy, they’d have been out that much money, plus a year’s worth of legal costs. The fact that our legal system enables people to extort tens of thousands of undeserved dollars from others is not evidence that there are “effective, built-in checks” on frivolous litigation.
- Putting aside any money issues, this lawsuit was filed on June 7, 2005; for more than two years, this case has been hanging over the Chungs’ heads. That’s two years of legal and financial uncertainty. Two years where they couldn’t make any significant business decisions because they had the possibility of an eight figure liability hanging over their heads. The fact that someone can drag out a case almost too small to have been on Judge Judy for two years is not evidence that there are “effective, built-in checks” on frivolous litigation.
- The Chungs “won” the case, but Pearson used the legal system to impose what was likely $100,000 in legal costs on them. Of course, there is a motion for sanctions pending against Pearson, but there are no guarantees here. Courts are very reluctant to impose sanctions, and even when they do (as the court probably will here) they very rarely impose sanctions sufficient to make the defendants whole. Note that sanctions are not automatic; the Chungs had to pay their attorney even more money to prepare a motion for sanctions. The fact that the Chungs have to endure two years of frivolous litigation and then cross their fingers and hope the judge awards them their legal fees is not evidence that there are “effective, built-in checks” on frivolous litigation.
- Oh, one other problem: the Examiner reported, even before the decision, that Pearson’s chances of keeping his job were slim. I think most reasonable people agree that Pearson hasn’t quite demonstrated that he’s fit to be a judge. But if he loses his job, the chances of the Chungs ever collecting any part of those sanctions drop from slim to none. (Their chances of recouping their losses are low to begin with — is it likely Pearson has $100,000 sitting around?)
- And let’s not forget one other party to this case, also abused by Roy Pearson: the taxpayers of the District of Columbia, who have to pay for the legal system. And they have no chance to get reimbursed.
- Finally, remember that the case is not necessarily over. It would be insane for Pearson to appeal, but that hasn’t proved to be a limiting factor in his actions in the past. The worst that happens is that he gets slapped with more sanctions, which he’ll never pay.