The American Tort Reform Association asks why it took so long to get rid of Administrative Judge Roy Pearson as a public employee and then offers some suggestions for preventing future abuses of D.C. law. ATRA President Sherman “Tiger” Joyce has repeatedly focused attention on weaknesses in the district’s consumer protection statutes, proposing specific fixes:
By requiring plaintiffs to prove that they actually relied on a supposedly fraudulent or deceptive advertisement or representation, lawmakers could drastically reduce this kind of lawsuit abuse. After all, Roy Pearson’s claim against Custom Cleaners alleged that the display of a basic ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’ sign somehow constituted a willful fraud punishable by a mind-boggling civil damages award with the potential to put them out of business.
Policymakers also would do well to limit plaintiffs’ claims for damages to out-of-pocket costs, except in cases when it can be proved that a defendant’s actions were knowingly and willfully fraudulent or deceptive. If Pearson had simply limited his claim against the Chungs to the cost of a new suit, alterations and any reasonable legal expenses, he’d still have his job and his lawsuit never would have become internationally infamous.
The terrible story of this $54 million pants lawsuit had two elements, the individual — Pearson — and the institutional — bad law. Take away Pearson, and the bad law still invites similar abuses.
That’s why reform is so critical, and hats off to Joyce and ATRA for keeping that issue in the public eye.
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