The Pants Suit, Correcting the Wrong

By December 19, 2008Briefly Legal

More on yesterday’s ruling by the D.C. appellate court, rejecting Roy Pearson’s $54 million lawsuit against his drycleaners. From the American Tort Reform Association, including comment from ATRA’s president, Sherman “Tiger” Joyce:

“That the District’s consumer protection statute allows an absurdly disproportionate case like this to go on as long as it did should be a wake-up call to the mayor and every member of the city council,” Joyce said. “Regardless of the appeals court ruling, every small business owner, every consumer and every D.C. taxpayer has already paid a price as the cost of doing business has gone up and court resources have been wasted.”

Noting a December 13 Washington Post article headlined “D.C. Files Suit Over Special-Ed Case It Calls Frivolous,” Joyce said “D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles is now on record, taking a stand against the kind of lawsuit abuse perpetrated by what he called ‘a very aggressive plaintiff’s bar,’ here in the District. And certainly Roy Pearson’s relentless, years-long assault on the Chungs’ honorable dry cleaning operation was about as aggressive as they come.

“But the Chungs certainly aren’t D.C.’s only small-business victims, just as Mr. Pearson isn’t the only perpetrator of such anti-business litigation,” Joyce continued. “Unfortunately, the District’s well-intentioned consumer protection law invites similarly speculative and economy-sapping lawsuits, and Mr. Nickles, the mayor and the city council ought to do something about it before other community-building businesses are sued out of existence, too.”

And from Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher, who has done an admirable job covering Pearson’s predations. And it’s another good piece, save for the conclusion. Fisher performs a bit of armchair analysis, or speculation, and suggests more to come.

The Chungs hope Pearson will now just leave them alone. But I have a hunch we will hear from Roy Pearson again. Having lost his job, he has more time than ever. He still has something to prove, and he’s learned that in America, one person with time, energy and a passion for a good pair of pants can use the legal system to dismantle the lives of total strangers.

It’s a frightening and in this case devastating power, but it’s also what’s cool and unique about the American system. One person really can make himself heard, without any resources and even without any cause.

No, no, no! It’s not “cool” at all that an obsessive, someone “off” in Fisher’s term, can dismantle the lives of total strangers. It’s wrong, an abuse, and a damn shame.

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