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.