May 27th, 2010

“Pants” Pearson Loses Again

Roy “Pants” Pearson, who infamously sued a dry cleaner for a lost pair of pants for $65M, only to reduce it later to $54M, and still managed to lose for some reason, has lost again. This loss was in the US Court of Appeals regarding the loss of his job. He claimed he was denied reappointment because of his complaints about the peer review system in place at the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings. You can read more details here: “Pants Judge” Pearson Loses Appeal in D.C. Circuit.

While it’s tempting to crack jokes and endlessly take rhetorical spins on pants suits and whatnot — I leave the to Kevin Underhill, see Judge Who Lost Pants Forced to Rely on Briefs — the fact is that this is a very serious matter. Here is why:

This was a classic frivolous case, or at least, the damages claim was frivolous. But the real problem is that outlier suits like this — those wacko ones that we read in the press — are then used to argue for tort “reform.” It has long been the strategy of those that wish to dismantle the civil justice system by using such outliers to deprive justice to those with meritorious claims.


Pants Lawsuit Ends in Victory for Dry Cleaners (6/25/07)

Trial Lawyer Group Makes Ethics Charge In Dry Cleaning Case (5/9/07)

All Hemmed Up Over My Pants Rant (Kia Franklin @ Tort Deform (6/19/07)


October 23rd, 2009

Move Over Pants Pearson, Here Comes the Hanes Underwear Lawsuit

Another victory for the tort “reform” movement. Albert Freed wanted to sue Hanes because of a claim that his underwear gaped open and hurt his penis (and he didn’t do anything about it). It’s notable that he represented himself, since apparently no lawyer would have been moronic enough to touch it. (Not the plaintiff–>>)

This spectacularly stupid lawsuit (coming to us by way of Above the Law, where there will no doubt be abundant commentary that is NSFW) had its origins in a two week vacation to Hawaii, and new briefs that the plaintiff’s wife bought for him. He testified that they gaped open at the fly, that this was apparent to him on the second day of the trip, that he got an abrasion, that he did nothing about it for two week, that he didn’t even look at himself, and that some topical ointment cleared the problem up in a day or two when he got home. He brought suit for defectively manufactured briefs.

Previously I’d written about Roy “Pants” Pearson and his $54 million case against a dry cleaner for his lost trousers. OK, pretty much everyone in the world had written about that one. But Freed can now take his place beside Pearson in the pantheon of public humiliation over ill-considered lawsuits. Pearson probably still has the lead here based on the fact that he is an attorney, but still, Freed has given him a run for his money.

Why did Freed do this? I’m going to take a shot at this here: He won the trip as a reward for selling $20,000 of diet products. Yet he weighed 280-290 pounds. Perhaps he thought he could sell anything to anyone.

Why do tort “reformers” like these kinds of nutty suits? Because the corporate-run movement is based on anecdotes and not empirical evidence. If the U.S. Chamber of Commerce trots out a few losers like this, then they think they can make headway into closing the courthouse doors to legitimate suits. It is rare suits like this that make news, not the legitimate suits that are “ordinary” by comparison and that make up the bulk of the cases in the courthouse.

On a final note, you really have to read footnote 3 to the opinion, about the lawyer sitting in the gallery “minding his own business” who was suddenly called as an expert witness, since he was the only male available that was watching the proceedings that was not involved.This was a “prominent” local defense lawyer who was “conscripted” into the proceedings to talk about “penile discomfort.” The court declined to name him, but acknowledged the lawyer was a “good sport” about it.
Opinion via ATL:/Freed-v-Hanes.pdf

Links to this post:

Handling a Products Liability Case on the Fly
I must confess I have never spent a lot of time thinking about men’s underwear. Thus, it never crossed my mind that a products liability case could arise from men’s underwear of any type. Women’s underwear are different.
posted by [email protected] (John Day) @ October 26, 2009 5:46 AM


December 18th, 2008

"Pants" Pearson Loses Bid for New Trial Against Dry Cleaner

Former administrative judge Roy “Pants” Pearson, who infamously brought a $67M lawsuit against a dry cleaner for allegedly losing a pair of trousers, has lost his bid for a new trial. That he subsequently lowered his demand to only $54M didn’t seem to matter (Previously: Pants Lawsuit Ends in Victory for Dry Cleaners.)

Covered extensively up down and sideways by every writer with a keyboard, the D.C. Court of Appeals has now weighed in to reject the appeal.

Pearson’s claim, briefly summarized by the Court in a 23-page opinion, was:

Pearson’s claims regarding the “Satisfaction Guaranteed” sign are premised on his interpretation that the sign is an unconditional and unlimited warranty of satisfaction to the customer as determined solely by the customer, without regard to the facts or to any notion of reasonableness — a position he has consistently advocated both in the trial court and on appeal…

[Pearson] argued unambiguously that “[a]s a consequence of offering an unconditional guarantee of satisfaction a merchant is required to satisfy a consumer’s demand for lawful compensation (for example, for any amount of money). (emphasis added by Court of Appeals, at page 13 of decision)

The trial court, said the appellate bench, showed “basic common sense” to reject the unlimited claims of Pearson and that Pearson’s fraud claim “defies logic.”

The court’s opinion is rather matter-of-fact about the case, with a long recitation of the facts and extensive citation to case law. There are no gratuitous comments about the ludicrous nature of the demand, other than the legal analysis of it being without basis, and no discussion of sanctions.

The court may realize that such sanctions and commentary are unnecessary since, in the court of public opinion, Pearson has been tried and convicted and there was nothing new to add.

The decision is here, courtesy of How Appealing: Pearson-v-Chung.pdf


June 25th, 2007

Pants Lawsuit Ends in Victory for Dry Cleaners

Administrative Judge Roy Pearson, lampooned high and low for his ludicrous $67M lawsuit over a pair of pants he claims were lost by his dry cleaners, lost his case today. And it didn’t even matter that he reduced his demand to only $54M.

He didn’t just lose his ridiculous claims for millions of dollars for claims that included emotional distress, he also lost the small claims part of his case for the actual pants themselves.

And he may get socked for sanctions and attorneys fees for engaging in “in bad faith and vexatious litigation.” That seems like an understatement. You can read the decision here: PantsPearsonDecision.pdf

Judge Judith Bartnoff noted at the end of the decision, that:

The issue of the defendants’ claim for attorney’s fees against the plaintiff will be addressed after the defendant’s motions for sanctions and for attorney’s fees have been filed and briefed by the parties.

Pants Pearson can’t be happy today.

Regarding the actual pants, Judge Bartnoff noted that Pearson had not met his burden of proof:

With regard to the alleged missing pants, the plaintiff has not met his burden of proving that the pants the defendants attempted to return to him were not the pants he brought in for alterations. At best, the evidence on that subject is in equipoise. The Court agrees with the plaintiff that the pants in the defendants’ possession do not appear to match the jacket to his burgundy and blue pinstriped suit. The Court also will accept that Mr. Pearson does not like cuffs on his pants. The plaintiff may well believe that he brought the pants to his burgundy and blue pinstriped suit to the defendants, but there also is strong evidence that he did not.

The Court found Soo Chung to be very credible, and her explanation that she recognized the disputed pants as belonging to Mr. Pearson because of the unusual belt inserts was much more credible than his speculation that she took a pair of unclaimed pants from the back of the store and altered them to match his measurements. Mr. Pearson only recently had received four suits back from his son, he brought in several pairs of pants over a period of less than two weeks for alterations, and it certainly is plausible that the pants on the hanger with his blue and burgundy pinstriped suit jacket were not the pants that matched the jacket, even if Mr. Pearson assumed that they were. The Court need not determine what did happen; what it must do is to determine if Mr. Pearson proved that the defendants intentionally misled him and otherwise are liable to him under the CPPA based on the pants. The Court finds that he has not made that proof.

In making its findings, Judge Bartnoff also noted about his prior divorce litigation, that:

[T]he litigation was disproportionately long, despite the relative simplicity of the case, and that Mr. Pearson “in good part is responsible for excessive driving up of everything that went on here” and created “unnecessary litigation.” Mr. Pearson therefore was ordered to pay $12,000 of his wife’s attorney’s fees.

That doesn’t bode well for him for the coming hearing on sanctions and attorneys fees.

What’s the lesson in all of this?

1. We are a nation of 300 million. There are a few nuts out there.

2. Pearson is an administrative law judge. Those who want to strip the right of trial by jury from the citizenry should note that sometimes people get elected or appointed judge and they may not be the type of person you want sitting in judgment. A community, known as a jury, works a whole lot better than being at the mercy of an individual.

Addendum: The American Association for Justice, the nations largest group of pro-consumer trial attorneys (of which I am a member), issued this statement:

“A multi-million dollar lawsuit over a pair of pants was both ridiculous and offensive to our values. Our civil justice system must be reserved for those who seek fair compensation when they are the victim of true wrongdoing or negligence. The court has ruled wisely in this matter. Opponents of our civil justice system should pay heed to this decision — it clearly shows that the system works to deny outrageous and ridiculous claims.”

AAJ has been sharply critical of Judge Pearson’s lawsuit seeking $54 million in damages over a lost pair of pants. In April, AAJ CEO Jon Haber called on the District of Columbia Bar Association to conduct a disciplinary investigation of Judge Pearson for his conduct in this matter. Haber and AAJ President Lewis “Mike” Eidson pledged to support the defendant’s defense fund and encouraged the AAJ membership to also contribute (

News links to Pants Pearson decision:

Blog Links:

(Eric Turkewitz is a personal injury attorney in New York, who understands that when one lawyer does something incredibly stupid, it tarnishes the entire profession in the eyes of some.)