Roy L. Pearson learned Monday that his pants are not worth $54 million.
In fact, the lawsuit he filed when a pair of trousers went AWOL at a local dry cleaner set him back $1,000 in court costs — and potentially a much larger sum in attorneys’ fees for the folks he sued.
More broadly, Pearson’s pant suit came to epitomize, for many, serious flaws in the legal system.
The saga began two years ago when Pearson was appointed an administrative law judge for the District of Columbia, which means he conducts hearings on claims concerning government programs. Required to wear a suit to work every day, Pearson found five old ones in his closet — dating back to when he was trimmer — and took them for alterations to a neighborhood dry cleaner.
When he went to retrieve the suits, one of them was missing its trousers. He asked for a $1,000 refund, the full price of the suit, he said, but was rebuffed.
So Pearson, a graduate of Northwestern University’s law school, did what lawyers do. He sued.
The suit over his suit was not just any suit. Arguing that the dry cleaner had failed to live up to the “satisfaction guaranteed” sign in its window, Pearson demanded $67 million.
He later reduced the amount to $54 million.
The breakdown: $500,000 in attorney fees (he represented himself), $2 million for “discomfort, inconvenience and mental distress,” $15,000 to rent a car every weekend to drive to another dry cleaner, and $51.5 million to set up a fund to help other dissatisfied local consumers sue businesses.