The infamous $67 million pants case has finally ended, and according to a ruling handed down Thursday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the pants are hardly worth that sum.
The opinion marks the conclusion of a lawsuit filed more than three years ago that became a favorite punchline for many who followed it. Former administrative Judge Roy Pearson sued the owners of now-defunct Custom Cleaners in 2005 for $54 million, accusing Soo and Jin Chung and their son, Ki Chung of losing a pair of pants he dropped off for dry cleaning. By allegedly losing the pants, Pearson argued, the store failed to live up to its "Satisfaction Guaranteed" sign and thus violated D.C. consumer protection law.
By Pearson's interpretation of the sign, the Chungs each owe him $18,000 for each day the pants were missing over a nearly four-year period. In that time, Pearson's demand went up to $67 million.
The three-judge panel, consisting of Judges Noel Kramer and Phyllis Thompson and retired Judge Michael Farrell, ruled against Pearson on every argument he made at oral argument in October.
In the opinion, Kramer says Pearson's argument that a "Satisfaction Guaranteed" sign is an unconditional and unlimited warrant of satisfaction has no basis and that when trial Judge Judith Bartnoff rejected that claim, it showed "basic common sense."
On appeal, Christopher Manning, a name partner at Manning Sossamon representing the Chungs, argued that Pearson's reading of the store's satisfaction-guaranteed policy was not what a "reasonable interpretation would lead a person to understand the 'satisfaction guaranteed' sign to mean."
Kramer's opinion says Pearson "defies logic" by arguing that the "Same Day Service" sign that the Chungs had in their store was a false statement unless same-day service was always and automatically provided.
Kramer also ruled against Pearson's claim that he was unfairly barred from having a jury trial because he failed to make the request within the required 10-day window following the last pleading in the case.
In a separate suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Pearson accuses the District government of breaking the law when it decided not to reappoint him last year to a 10-year term as an administrative law judge because of his suit against the Chungs. That position pays $100,000 a year.
Reached for comment Thursday morning, Pearson would only say, "I have no comment, and I haven't seen the opinion."
Manning did not return calls for comment. The Web site for Manning's firm includes a rundown of the facts of the case and a link to donate to the Chungs.
First reported in The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times