Posts Tagged ‘Roy Pearson’

Breaking: Pearson loses pants suit

A judge has ruled in favor of the defendant Chung family in the mishandled-dry-cleaning case, and awarded them (relatively minor) court costs. Pearson is expected to appeal; the Chungs’ lawyer says the family expects to ask eventually that he also be made to pay their attorney fees, but D.C. law sets the bar for such a request relatively high, so it’s by no means something they can count on. Coverage: Washington Post and its Marc Fisher and OFF/beat blogs, more. Earlier: here and here.

More: And here’s word of a fundraiser for the Chungs’ legal defense, next month in D.C., sponsored by the Chamber and ATRA.

Update: Kia Franklin and Roy Pearson and the $67 million pants

I’d like to make a correction. In my earlier post, I suggested that Milberg Weiss Justice Fellow Kia Franklin thought that Judge Roy Pearson’s $67 million lawsuit over a pair of pants was frivolous. I appear to have been mistaken in attributing such a common-sense view to her. Franklin has a lengthy post protesting that, while she thinks Pearson’s lawsuit is “ridiculous” and “crazy” (she has also called it “obscene”), she does not think it is “frivolous.” We regret the error.

But it is a useful illustration: when those who oppose civil justice reform say they don’t think frivolous litigation is a problem, it is because they define “frivolous litigation” so narrowly that even Roy Pearson’s lawsuit is not frivolous in their eyes. Well, that’s one way to make problems go away, by using doublespeak or narrow technical legal definitions to pretend they don’t exist instead of suggesting that there is a problem with the narrow technical legal definition.

Read On…

Roy Pearson pants suit: the bottom line

Our editor, Walter Olson, in today’s Wall Street Journal:

A few observations:
• Phrases like “Do you realize I’m a lawyer?” uttered in the course of routine disputes with storekeepers, neighbors, school principals, etc., probably account for more of the legal profession’s aggregate unpopularity than any number of scandals in the actual representation of clients.

• David and Goliath talk notwithstanding, legal action is often a powerful dis-equalizer of the playing field, as those who know how to work the system fleece the outsiders, the novices, the distracted and the trustful.

• Pretty much every other advanced country would have afforded the Chungs better protection against a lawsuit like this. Under proper “loser-pays” rules, the Chungs would be correctly construed as having won even if Mr. Pearson proves damages of, say, $1,000, since they would have prevailed on the actual issues in dispute. D.C. does have a weak “offer of judgment” rule that might let the Chungs recover some miscellaneous court costs — but not their major expense, lawyers’ fees — if Mr. Pearson loses or wins but a token sum. So even if they win, they’re bound to lose.

• The other source of Mr. Pearson’s power — his ability to hold the threat of huge penalties over the Chungs’ heads — arises from consumer laws that encourage complainants to multiply the stated penalty for a single infraction by the whole universe of a business’s clientele, or by all the days in the calendar, with no need to prove actual injury.

This sort of mechanical damage-multiplication has been a key engine in shakedown scandals in California (where roving complainants have mass-mailed demand letters to small businesses over technical infractions); in “junk-fax” litigation demanding billions from hapless merchants in Texas, Illinois and elsewhere; and in important sectors of litigation aimed at bigger businesses, including claims against credit-card providers and purveyors of “light” cigarettes. Whole dockets’-worth of opportunistic litigation would dry up if we revised these laws so as to require a showing of actual injury. Doing so would require overcoming epic resistance from the litigation lobby.

It’s nice to see that even the organized plaintiffs bar piously deplores Mr. Pearson’s abuse of the law. It would be even nicer if they agreed to stop opposing reforms that would give the Chungs of the world a fighting chance the next time around.

Earlier: June 17; June 14; Apr. 26; et cetera.

The Litigation Lobby’s “frivolous” bait-and-switch: the Judge Roy Pearson pants-suit

Second Milberg Weiss Justice Fellow, same as the first? Bizarro-Overlawyered twists itself into contortions over the infamous $54 million Judge Pearson pants-suit. Cyrus Dugger’s replacement as Milberg Weiss Justice Fellow, Kia Franklin, recognizes that the anti-reform cause can’t be seen endorsing the patently-ridiculous lawsuit that is the laughingstock of the world. So, she dances over the issue: yes, this case is frivolous, but frivolous cases are rare, so there are no lessons to learn from the fact that a small business was forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars litigating an overbroad consumer-fraud claim, to the point that it was willing to pay $12,000 over a pair of pants to make the lawsuit go away and stop the financial bleeding.

Her evidence is a Public Citizen study—but she ignores our 2006 post noting that Public Citizen got its math wrong, and even distorts the distorted statistic beyond what Public Citizen claimed. (Public Citizen gerrymandered its claim to falsely say businesses were 69% more likely to be sanctioned for frivolousness than individual tort plaintiffs, but Franklin misreads that to say individuals, which is false even by Public Citizen’s numbers, which found by its own measure that individuals were sanctioned for frivolousness 86% more often than corporations. Note also the difference between the inaccurate “more likely” and “more often.”)

The really funny thing is that, under the Public Citizen narrow definition of “frivolous lawsuit” used in its study, Judge Pearson’s suit is not frivolous! When politicians speak of “frivolous” cases, they use it in the everyday English sense of “silly”: they mean the meritless cases, where, because of far-fetched legal theories, junk science, or overbroad liability rules, plaintiffs seek or realize recovery far beyond what makes good social policy—cases like Roy Pearson’s. Public Citizen’s study, however, in a typical litigation-lobby bait-and-switch (see, e.g., the Kerry/Edwards malpractice reform plan), defines “frivolous” with the narrow technical legal definition so that it can conclude (like Franklin) that frivolous litigation is “rare” and thus not a problem. (Amazing how many problems disappear when you assume them away.) The definition is so narrow that Pearson’s suit is outside of it: Pearson defeated motions to dismiss and for summary judgment, and received a $12,000 offer of judgment. (Pearson is apparently sufficiently emotionally troubled that he thinks he has a better shot seeking tens of millions from a couple of immigrant Korean dry cleaners than the thousands of dollars offered in settlement for a pair of pants, even though the judge who will be ruling on his case has given him plenty of hints that he has no hope of success.) The Pearson suit would have been excluded from Public Citizen’s count of frivolous suits for a second reason: Public Citizen ignored pro se lawsuits brought by attorneys like Pearson in its count of frivolous suits, as it had to to deflate the number of sanctions issued against individual tort plaintiffs and falsely claim that corporations are sanctioned more often.

We’re excited to see Franklin join the world of reformers and recognize that many more lawsuits are frivolous than what Public Citizen recognizes. We encourage her to read the data and arguments of those she mistakenly claims to oppose, and to scrutinize those she mistakenly thinks are her allies a bit more closely. Why is it alright for wealthy white trial lawyers to extort billions from big business using the same ad terrorem tactics (and even the same consumer-protection laws!) as a poor African-American pro se did to extort $12,000 from a small business? We encourage Franklin to examine the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s racial double-standard.

And since Franklin agrees that the Pearson lawsuit is frivolous, we are eager to hear how she would define a frivolous lawsuit, and hope that she uses that definition consistently for both the Milberg Weisses of the world as well as African-American city employees.

Pearson penultimate (?) update – the trial ends

The second day of the Roy Pearson pants trial happened yesterday; the Washington Post had another blog post from the scene of the trial. Highlight (or perhaps lowlight?):

It took more than 10 minutes and numerous attempts by both Manning and Judge Judith Bartnoff to get Pearson to answer a question about whether anyone has the right to walk into any cleaners and claim $1,150 simply by saying that their suit had been lost. Finally, Pearson said that the law requires that “The merchant would have an obligation to honor their demand.”

“So your answer is Yes?” Manning asked.

“Yes,” Pearson said.

The courtroom, in which it’s hard to discern any support for Pearson except from his mother and her friend, broke up in laughter. Derisive laughter.

Manning pushed ahead: Does Pearson believe that people should interpret signs “in a reasonable way?”

“Depends on the circumstances,” Pearson said.

Asked to answer yes or no, Pearson said, “No.”

According to the Post’s blogger, the trial is over, and now we just have to wait for the judge’s verdict, which should arrive next week. It’s risky to rely upon media coverage of a trial, particularly from non-lawyer journalists, but from the sound of things, the judge wasn’t significantly more impressed by Pearson than the rest of the civilized world was. (She did throw out one of his claims right away — his claim that “Same Day Service” was fraudulent because not all cleaning was done in one day even when the customer didn’t ask for it.)

Keep in mind that the defendants apparently made a formal offer of judgment in the case, in the neighborhood of $12,000 or so. So if Pearson wins, but wins less than that amount, he may be on the hook for all of the defendants’ legal fees over the last year and a half. Since those fees would amount to far more than the case was worth, it would be poetic justice.

Of course, nothing prevents Pearson from appealing! (Knock on wood.)

Update: Several readers have pointed out to me that the District of Columbia’s Offer of Judgment rule is less generous than the one I’m most used to; while the plaintiffs can recover their costs, these costs do not include attorney’s fees. Therefore, the Cleaners may be able to partly recover their expenses, but only partly.

Roy Pearson trial update

Roy Pearson’s $55 million pants lawsuit has begun; the Washington Post’s Emil Steiner is liveblogging the trial. There is a series of about ten posts so far, starting with this 10:02 AM entry.

In case you were holding your breath waiting to find out: the case doesn’t sound as if it has gotten any less frivolous. (Apparently Pearson has found a few dry cleaning customers who were also dissastisfied with their service. Well, I’m sold. He also somehow managed to invoke Godwin’s Law.)

June 11 roundup

Updating earlier stories:

  • The Judge Pearson consumer fraud suit starts today. It’s exceedingly silly, but ATLA’s attack on Judge Pearson is hypocritical: the only difference between this consumer fraud suit and the consumer fraud suits ATLA supports is that it’s an African-American pro se going against a shallow pocket instead of a well-funded bunch of millionaires going against a deep pocket. The Fisher blog @ WaPo notes a publicity-stunt settlement offer. [via TaxProf blog]
  • Wesley Snipes playing the race card in his tax evasion prosecution would have more resonance if his white co-defendant weren’t still in jail while he’s out on bail. [Tax Prof; earlier, Nov. 22]
  • “Party mom host set for Virginia jail term” for daring to ensure high school students didn’t drink and drive by providing a safe haven for underage drinking. Earlier: June 2005. [WaPo]
  • Sorry, schadenfreude fans: Fred Baron settles with Baron & Budd. [Texas Lawyer; earlier Sep. 4]
  • Blackmail-through-civil discovery lawyer Ted Roberts (Mar. 19 and links therein) seeks new trial. [Texas Lawyer]
  • Second Circuit doesn’t quite yet decide Ehrenfeld v. Bin Mahfouz libel tourism suit (Oct. 2003). [Bashman roundup of links]
  • NFL drops claims to trademarking “The Big Game” as a euphemism for the trademarked “Super Bowl” (Jan. 31) [Lattman]
  • More on the Supreme Court’s “fake mental retardation to get out of the death penalty” decision, Atkins v. Virginia (Feb. 2005; Sep. 2003). [LA Times]
  • What does Overlawyered favorite Rex deGeorge (Sep. 2004) have to do with The Apprentice? [Real Estalker]

Pearson update: Bogus pants lawsuit no longer about pants

Roy Pearson, the DC administrative law judge who made abusive litigation famous by suing his dry cleaner for $67 million over a pair of pants, has apparently heard all the public criticism he has received and taken it to heart. No longer is he asking for that kind of money over an article of clothing, according to the Examiner:

A customer who believes he was mistreated by a dry cleaner has dropped the pants from his suit.

Roy L. Pearson, who filed a $67 million lawsuit against the dry cleaning business that lost his pants, has lowered his demand. Now, he’s only asking for $54 million.


He is now focusing his claims on signs in the shop that have since been removed. The suit alleges that the three defendants, Jin Nam Chung, Soo Chung and their son, Ki Chung, committed fraud and misled consumers with signs that claimed “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Same Day Service.”

Oh, good. Now the lawsuit is only $54 million worth of frivolous instead of $67 million.

For all of you eagerly awaiting the outcome of this case, it is scheduled for trial on June 11.

June 5 roundup

  • Everyone’s got an opinion on Dr. Flea’s trial-blogging fiasco [Beldar, Childs, Adler @ Volokh (lively comments including Ted), Turkewitz (who also provides huge link roundups here and here), KevinMD]
  • Sidebar: some other doctor-bloggers have shut down or curtailed posting lately amid pressures from disapproving employers and patient-privacy legal worries [KevinMD first, second posts; Distractible Mind, Blogaholic]
  • Amusement park unwisely allows “extremely large” woman to occupy two seats on the roller coaster, and everyone lands with a thump in court [Morris County, N.J. Daily Record via Childs]
  • Prosecutors all over are trying to live down the “Duke effect” [NLJ]; how to prevent the next such debacle [Cernovich]
  • Bad for their image: trial lawyers’ AAJ (formerly ATLA) files ethics complaint against Judge Roy Pearson Jr., of $65 million lost-pants-suit infamy [Legal Times]
  • More suits assert rights to “virtual property” in Second Life, World of Warcraft online simulations [Parloff]
  • Plea deals and immunity in the Conrad Black affair [Steyn, OC Register]
  • Another round in case of local blog sent nastygram for allegedly defaming the city of Pomona, Calif. [Foothill Cities; earlier]
  • “There once was a guy named Lerach…” — Milberg prosecution has reached the limerick stage [WSJ Law Blog comments]
  • Government of India plans to fight Americans’ claims of intellectual property over yoga postures [Times Online; earlier here and here]
  • After car-deer collision, lawyer goes after local residents who allegedly made accident more likely by feeding the creatures [seven years ago on Overlawyered]

May 22 roundup

  • Class action lawyer on the divvying up of $6.9M of attorneys fees among 79 attorneys: “There were two firms that . . . we generously gave a substantial award that really didn’t do anything for the common benefit.” But the award is still under seal; the Fifth Circuit is now considering. WSJ: “Unsealing the records would be a good first step, but Mr. Barrett’s statements suggest that the juiciest story is not how the money was divided among the lawyers, but how 79 lawyers extracted nearly twice as much from the defendant for themselves than they won for their 81,000 clients. Just another day at the office for the tort bar.” We reported Apr. 9. [W$J]
  • Street vendor sign of “180-degree coffee” reminds professor that McDonald’s coffee isn’t all that relatively hot. [Childs]
  • Briefing from the Pearson pants case (Apr. 26, etc.). [On Point]
  • FDA scandal! Or is it? Is it really the case, as some claim, that safety is never too expensive? [Point of Law]
  • Trial lawyers and Jay Angoff, at it again, incredibly accusing a non-profit mutual med-mal insurer of gouging. [RiskProf]
  • “Treating patients is a lot harder for this physician—and much less fun—in a climate of fingerpointing.” [Medical Economics via Kevin MD]
  • Are abuse victims squandering their moral authority? [Commonweal]