By now, I’m sure many of you have heard of the judge in Washington DC who is suing his drycleaners for $67 million because they lost his favorite pair of pants.
The case has sparked debate about tort reform, and has become great fodder for those who say our system doesn’t work. Because it’s impossible for ANYONE to argue that the attorney is justified in seeking so much money in this case, there isn’t much of a comeback, beyond pointing out that this case is a wierd one, the judge is wrong, but that 99.999999% of cases aren’t like that.
So that got me thinking – who was this judge? Was he a crazy person, or was he a brilliant tort-reformer
(same thing) who filed this suit just to get the tort-reform message out?
I did my research. Looks more like crazy guy than tort reformer.
The judge involved is Roy Pearson Jr. His bio has been removed from his agency’s website, but a Westlaw search revealed some of his published case opinions (as a lawyer or litigant).
What I seem to have learned is that Mr. Pearson spent most of his career representing tenants in battles with landlords. Up to a point, his reported cases just seem to be that of an attorney sticking up for the little guy. Then came the case of Woodner v. Breeden, 665 A.2d 929. Somehow his clients were awarded 4.5 million and $9.5 million in punitive damages over a landlord/tenant dispute. The punitive damage awards were overturned on appeal, but this seems to have led to a shift in his case strategy.
The next reported case I found was Carey v. Edgewood Management Corp, 754 A.2d 951, where Mr. Pearson unsuccessfully tried to get emotional distress damages for his clients for a breach of a real estate contract.
Then came his divorce, Pearson v. Vanlowe, 2005 WL 524597, where he was ordered to pay his ex-wife’s attorney fees because he “excessively drove costs up” by threatining to have her attorneys disbarred, among other bully tactics.
Hate to say it… but he doesn’t look like a tort reformer in disguise to me.
Unfortunately, this case simply sticks in people’s minds, like the OJ Simpson case, the McDonalds Coffee case, and the infamous Stella Awards (which aren’t even real, by the way). The American people hear a lot about the cases that go wrong, but not enough about the cases that go right.
People don’t publicize the cases where someone is able to get their bills paid, their lost wages back, and a little money for their pain and suffering after an accident. The public doesn’t hear about how a company finally made its product safer after a string of lawsuits made it unprofitable to be unsafe.
I guess if nothing else, at least the dry cleaner is scared as heck about possibly losing my pants.