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The Brotherhood of the Traveling $54 Million Pants

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The Wall Street Journal Legal Blog is reporting that Mr. Pearson and his missing $54 million pants are back in court today. If you are not familiar with this amazing story, here is a brief recap:

Back in 2007, local Washington D.C. laundromat Custom Cleaners made the unfortunate mistake of losing D.C. administrative Judge Roy Pearson’s pants. After some particularly vicious back and forth, Custom Cleaners made the unheard of offer of $12,000 to cover Mr. Pearson for his lost gray trousers with red and blue stripes. Outraged at being offered a measly $12,000, the judge decided a more fitting avenue of attack would be suing the owners of Custom Cleaners for $64 million dollars. (A truly hilarious transcript of some of the court proceedings can be found here, courtesy of ABC news. Included is the dramatic moment when the defendant tries to tell Mr. Pearson they found his pants, but he tearfully denies they are his because he would “never wear pants with cuffs.”)

Mr. Pearson arrived at this outrageous sum (later reduced to $54 million) thusly: He multiplied the daily statutory damages limit of $1,500 by the number of days his pants were missing. He then multiplied this number by three, because there are three owners of Custom Cleaners (a husband, a wife, and a son), and threw in $500,000 in emotional distress damages due to the “mental anguish” he suffered by not being able to wear his special trousers to his first day of work as an administrative law judge.

Thankfully his job didn’t last long, and it wasn’t because his pants were not nice enough. Mr. Pearson lost his job after losing the case and being thoroughly denounced by the legal community for his mockery of the civil court system. Now, however, a three judge panel in D.C. resurrected the issue by awarding Mr. Pearson’s appeal.

The D.C. appellate court apparently wants to assist Mr. Pearson in further embarrassing himself and the courts. Already, conservative commentators and tort reform advocates are crying foul and running wild with charges that the case is indicative of all that is un-holy in the American legal system.

The case is being reviewed today, and hopefully the judges settle it once and for all. I wonder though—what kind of pants will Mr. Pearson be wearing for the hearing?

Ken LaMance

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