Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matt Arnold answers the question: “What can you sue for in a personal injury case?”
An infamous former administrative law judge in Washington, D.C. is back in the news recently after having legal ethics charges filed against him for his charades in a truly epic personal injury case years before.
To say that Roy Pearson’s lawsuit against his dry cleaner’s made a mountain out of a molehill fails to do the legal saga justice, but perhaps a bulleted timeline will. It became known as the “case of the missing pants,” which is exactly what it sounds like but merits a re-telling.
- 2002: Pearson’s neighborhood dry cleaner (“Cleaners”) misplaces a pair of the then-attorney’s suit pants (“Pants”). Cleaners admit to their error and compensate Pearson with a check for $150.
- Pearson continues using Cleaners for the next three (3) years.
- 2005: Pearson, now an administrative-law judge, returns to Cleaners with a request to let out the waist on another pair of pants (“Second Pants”). Second Pants are not ready on the morning he requests, and are actually once more nowhere to be found. Anger ensues.
- Over the next two (2) years, Pearson and Cleaners haggle back and forth, attempting resolution. Pearson initially demands $1,150 for a new suit. Cleaners refuse. Legal bills mount on both sides. Eventually Cleaners offers $1,150, then $3,000, and eventually $12,000 in settlement, all of which Pearson now turns down (remember, this is all over a lost pair of pants).
- 2007: Pearson files suit under D.C.’s Consumer Protection Act, pointing to Cleaners’ “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Same Day Service” signs it had hanging in the shop. He asks for $65 million and change in damages, including:
- Damages under the Consumer Protection Act’s provision that imposes $1,500 in damages per violation (Pearson claims 12 “violations”), per day (1200), per defendant (the three family members who run Cleaners together)
- Pearson’s attorney’s fees and litigation costs
- Pearson’s “mental suffering” and “inconvenience”
- The costs of Pearson leasing a car each weekend for the last 10 years (perhaps to visit his attorney, although this was not explained in his filing)
- In a fit of reason, Pearson files a brief amending his damages to $56 million before trial.
- The case goes to trial. It is every bit as absurd as one could have predicted. Media outlets have a heyday coining snappy new headlines highlighting the ludicrousness of the case (spoiler alert: most of them pun off the word “suit.”) Pearson calls no fewer than nine (9) witnesses, including himself. He weeps on the stand. He claims that he had not wanted to litigate the matter of the Pants but felt that the law gave him no choice.
- The law doesn’t give Pearson anything else, either. He loses his case and appeals.
- Later in 2007: In unfortunate timing, Pearson’s judgeship is up for another term. Some, including his employers, felt that the entire matter of the Pants called the judge’s, well, judgment into question. Pearson is fired.
- Not surprisingly, Pearson sues his employers for wrongful termination, asking for a paltry $1 million in damages that time. He loses this as well, and appeals this loss too.
- 2008: The Pants appeal does not go well. The appellate panel rules unanimously that Pearson’s claim was supported by neither law nor reason.
- 2010: The wrongful termination appeal does not go any better for Pearson. The court refused to even hear oral argument on his appeal despite his claims that the matter was an issue of “public interest” for the benefit of “thousands of consumers.”
Although it may not come as a surprise that someone who wasted years of the courts’ resources over such a frivolous case could face repercussions, the matter may have taken Pearson by surprise since over five (5) years have passed since the dismissal of the Pants appeal. When non-professional litigants file frivolous cases that the courts deem a waste of judicial resources, the usual penalty is just dismissal and maybe a fine. When you’re a member of a self-regulating profession, however—particularly the profession whose resources you’re wasting—it shouldn’t come as a surprise when that profession eventually wants payback.
A committee of the Board of Professional Responsibility agreed with two of the ethics charges against Pearson this June, recommending a stayed 30-day suspension conditioned on the ex-judge’s successful completion of two years’ probation. This would require Pearson to refrain from any frivolous legal claims during that period, although as of the hearing Pearson was still insisting the merits of his original claims. No word on if he ever replaced the Pants.
If you or someone close to you has been injured, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today who can help you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a free consultation, call at 704-370-2828 or click here for additional resources.
About the Author
Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.
Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.
A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.
In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.
Note: The “Pants” not pictured.
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