Update: Consumer Protection Law Vindicated

Justice prevails!

You may recall that I wrote recently about Judge Roy L. Pearson - the guy who was suing a dry cleaner's for losing his pants for a couple days and was asking for 67 million dollars. Well, he lost. "Judge Bartnoff has spoken loudly in suggesting that, while consumers should be protected, abusive lawsuits like this will not be tolerated," said the lawyer for the owners of the dry cleaners.

Will this repair all the damage done by Mr. Pearson in terms of the public's confidence in our legal system? I doubt it. But it definitely makes me feel better, knowing that I can explain to people that the system, in the end, worked.

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Don't Blame Consumer Protection Laws

Roy L. Pearson, Jr., an administrative hearings judge in the District of Columbia, took several suits to Custom Cleaners in Washington, D.C. for alteration. One of the pairs of pants was missing when he returned to pick them up two days later. So Pearson asked the cleaners to pay for the suit, around $1,000. A week later, though, the cleaners found the pants and refused to pay. Pearson decided to sue.

So of course Pearson sued for everything to which he felt entitled, which turned out to be $65,000,000. Yep, sixty five million dollars.

Pearson is apparently claiming that the cleaner's signs stating "Satisfaction Guaranteed" and "Same Day Service" are fraudulent. The bulk of the sixty five million is for 43,200 separate violations of D.C.'s consumer protection law, the Consumer Protection and Procedures Act, which is D.C.'s equivalent of the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act, at $1,500 a pop. Alrighty then. Part of the remainder is money for Pearson to rent a car every weekend for the next ten years so that Pearson can take his clothes to another dry cleaner.

You might have guessed that Pearson is his own lawyer. I'm surprised that even Pearson himself took on a client that dumb.

Pearson has turned down settlement offers of $3,000, $4,600 and $12,000. Meanwhile, the Chungs, South Korean immigrants who opened the cleaners seven years ago, have spent thousands of dollars in attorney fees defending themselves over the past two years.

I just want to go on record as stating that this lawsuit is absurd. But it's important to remember that this abomination of the legal system is in no way typical. This case is already being used by business interest groups to lobby the public against consumer protection statutes across the U.S., decrying "the litigation industry's growing abuse of consumer protection laws." The use of this outrageously extreme case in that way is just as abusive to truth and justice as Mr. Pearson's lawsuit.

I see everyday how much Indiana consumers, and consumer across the country, need laws like these that provide a remedy and access to the courts that they otherwise would not have. I hate to see these much-needed rights come under attack.

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He Thought They Just Wouldn't Notice

Haven't you ever wished the bank would make a mistake and through some glitch deposit about a hundred thousand dollars in your account? And then never find out? Tell me you've never thought about that! Anyway, that happened to George Costanza, oops, I mean George J. Costa of La Vista, Nebraska. More than $106,000 was deposited in his account between August 2006 and February 2007 after a bank employee mixed up account numbers. What did Mr. Costa do? He spent most of it. What's happening to Mr. Costa now? He's being charged with felony theft.

Does Mr. Costa owe the bank the money? Almost certainly. Will he be convicted of theft? That's a much tougher call, but I definitely wouldn't like to be in Mr. Costa's position. Mr. Costa's lawyer said: "If somebody sticks money in your pocket and you spend it, you can't be convicted of theft." I'm not sure that's what happened here, but good luck. At least there's an argument to be made.

Mr. Costa probably would have a better chance of escaping a conviction if he hadn't spent the money on lottery tickets. Ok, I'm kidding on that one!!!!!

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Maybe It Was A Drunk Unicorn...

DATELINE: Billings, Montana, Wednesday, March 14, 2007

County Attorney Dennis Paxinos apologizes to the court, the public and to local DUI defendant Phillip Holliday. Why was he making this public apology? The day before, a deputy prosecutor employed by Mr. Paxinos' office told a local judge an eyebrow-raising story: When officers arrived at the scene where Mr. Holliday had crashed his truck into a light pole, Mr. Holliday told the officers that a unicorn was driving. Yep, a UNICORN was driving.

Well, it turns out that Mr. Holliday never actually claimed a unicorn was driving. The apparently somewhat green deputy prosecutor misinterpreted an e-mail from a colleague that indicated Holliday was pursuing a "unicorn defense" - which is prosecutor-speak for when a defendant blames the offense on some unnamed, unidentified (mythical) other person. In fact, Holliday had told officers at the scene than an unnamed woman was driving at the time of the accident.

Paxinos said he chastised the prosecutors and the pink elephant involved.

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Steve Wynn Imitates Gilligan

Wynn Resorts Chairman Steve Wynn yesterday filed a lawsuit against insurance company Lloyds of London. I can't help but comment on this lawsuit, not because I have anything of value to say about the law involved, but because the facts giving rise to the lawsuit are so humorous.

Wynn is a very rich gambling mogul. How rich? Well, Mr. Wynn owns a 1932 painting by Picasso called "Le Reve," which he purchased in the late '90's for about 50 million dollars. Somehow last September, in an unspeakable moment of clumsiness, Wynn poked a hole in the painting with his elbow while showing it off to friends. He had sold the painting the day before for 139 million dollars, but the deal fell through after the damage was disclosed.

Wynn is seeking 54 million dollars from Lloyd's, which, according to Wynn, is the loss in value of the painting following the damage.

This is just further evidence that no one is exempt from making stupid mistakes. Some are just more costly than others.

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