Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A judge lost his pants - and maybe his mind

Custom Cleaners lost DC Administrative Judge Roy Pearson’s pants. It may end up being very good for business.

Here’s the math: Consumer protection laws provide for fines of $1,500 per day per defendant. Pearson came up with 12 separate violations from the pair of pants lost in 2005. So let’s see... according to Judge Pearson, 12 violations times 1,200 days times three defendants – the dry cleaner has three owners – times $1,500 a day, plus $15,000 for a rental car to take his clothes to another cleaner, and some other expenses required due to the defendants alleged misdeeds, works out to around $65 million.

Judge Pearson not only has an interesting view of the law, but of math. Where did 1,200 days come from? As of today, there could not be more than 893 days, even if the pants were lost on New Year’s Day in 2005. This would reduce the amount Judge Pearson seeks to a modest $48 million but Judge Pearson sort of split the difference and reduced his claim to $54 million.

Who knows? Strange lawsuits have worked before. 1992 was a good year for them. In February, Stella Liebeck collected nearly three million dollars after burning herself with a cup of coffee from McDonalds. Later that year, Karen Norman got drunk, drove her car into the bay, and drowned when she couldn’t undo her seat belt. Her family was awarded $65 million from Honda. An appeals court threw out the case.

There are some strange lawsuits that people would like to see be successful. In April this year Project Honey Pot filed the largest anti-spam lawsuit ever, seeking more than one billion dollars in damages. Those spammers could lose their shirts in this one. Which may be better than losing your pants - or your mind.

In the meantime, Custom Cleaners has more publicity than it could ever have dreamed of; Judge Pearson may just be good for their business!

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