After two years of unemployment, Roy Pearson finally won appointment as an Administrative Law Judge in the District of Colombia. Today he deserves to be fired. In my opinion he should also lose his law license based on irrational behavior unbecoming a public official and excessive use of coercion against a fellow citizen. While I’m not a psychologist, it seems to me that for his own sake a complete psychological evaluation might also be in order.
Not long after his appointment, Judge Pearson went into Custom Cleaners in the District of Columbia and paid $10.50 to have his pants altered. The establishment is owned by Jin Chung, Soo Chung and Ki Chung who legally came to the United States from Korea in 1992. Pearson claims that the alteration job wasn’t finished on time and that he received a pair of pants that belonged to someone else. The Chungs deny this. Pearson demanded $1,150 for a new suit and the Chungs refused.
Pearson decided to sue the Chungs. The suit claimed that Pearson should be paid 10 years of weekend car rentals so that he could patronize another dry cleaning establishment. According to the law suit Pearson also claimed $500,000 in emotional stress over the incident, along with legal fees of $542,000 (of course, he represented himself). Then Pearson claimed that the “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Same Day Service” signs displayed at Custom Cleaners were fraudulent, which entitled him to damages of $1,500 per day under D.C. Consumer Law. He multiplied a hypothetical 12 violations by three hypothetical defendants by 1,200 days and sued the Chungs for $65 million which he later reduced to $54 million.
The Chung’s, humble, struggling small business owners, must have been perplexed. This had to be the pair of pants from hell! Harassed by a $54 million law suit filed by Pearson, who is both a lawyer and judge, residing in a new country and overwhelmed by their own legal fees, they finally offered Pearson $12,000 to go away. Twelve thousand bucks is a lot of money in the dry cleaning business, where excessive competition keeps markups low. Pearson refused and continued with his lawsuit. The Chungs must have wondered if this was all a bad dream.
This week, following a two years of legal fees that have drained them financially, the Chung’s had their day in court. After a two day trial, Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff dismissed all charges against the Chungs, ruling that Custom Cleaners did not violate the city’s Consumer Protection Act by failing to live up to Pearson’s expectations of the “Satisfaction Guaranteed” sign that appeared in their window. The also court ordered Pearson to pay the court costs of the defendants. Pearson has an opportunity to appeal the ruling and may be forced to pay the Chungs’ legal fees.
From a small business perspective Pearson’s irrational lawsuit demonstrates the potential abuse that the legal system can exact on decent and reasonable human beings. It is doubtful that the Chungs built their business cheating people $10 at a time. Everyone knows that repeated dishonesty on the part of the Chungs would have inevitably cost them their customers and ultimately their livelihood. It is not plausible that the Chungs would want to upset any of their customers. In fact, despite the legal costs and stress incurred by the Chungs during this ordeal, when asked by the Judge if they would accept Pearson as a return customer, they replied, “If he wants to continue to use our services, then yes, we will accept him as a customer.”
Pearson’s lawsuit doesn’t even come close to passing anyone’s reasonable estimate of damages for the alteration of a pair of pants. $54 million for a pair of pants! It is unfortunate that this almost comical case couldn’t have been dismissed prior to causing hard-working new immigrant entrepreneurs such incredible stress and legal fees.
If I were the Judge in this case I would dismiss the suit, make Pearson pay the Chungs’ legal and court costs, plus $100,000 damages for the Chungs anguish, push for his firing as a Judge, attempt to get him stripped of his legal license, and require him to work two weeks in a dry cleaning establishment.
If Pearson isn’t insane, he’s incredibly stupid. Jesse Jackson could have taught Pearson that if he wants to extort millions of dollars from a business he should pick on companies like Toyota, Quaker Oats, or NASCAR. Getting $54 million from the Chungs is like extracting blood from a turnip!