Opinion

Lawsuits keep getting wackier

by Don C. Brunell
President, Association of
Washington Business


Over the years, Ive written many articles about the growing number of ludicrous lawsuits and the impact they have on people, jobs and our ability to compete. Just when I thought Id heard the wackiest, I was fooled again.
There are a raft of wacky lawsuits featured in the April issue of Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly, a monthly publication by The Heartland Institute. For example, what started out as a childish joke at a St. Petersburg, Fla., high school escalated into a full-blown court action. A student, upset over being barred from a lip-sync talent show because the auditorium was overcrowded, mooned his teacher. It wasnt just a drop-your-knickers-and-exposure-your-backside mooning, it was so gross it traumatized the teacher. The student was suspended for six days. His attorney sued the school district, claiming the punishment was too harsh.
Then theres the case in Las Vegas, where three homeless men were arrested under an ordinance banning them from sleeping too close to a pile of feces. Translated, they were camped near a portable toilet and carted off to jail. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, their rights were violated violated in an egregious fashion. The ACLU filed a $2-million claim. They settled for $45,000, and the attorney made a cool $15,000.
In what has become a more conventional claim, a woman in Birmingham, Ala., is suing Starbucks, claiming she was sold a scalding-hot cup of coffee at a Starbucks drive-through window. She spilled it, burning her stomach.
She alleges Starbucks engaged in conscious indifference, willful, wanton, and reckless disregard by serving the unreasonably dangerous coffee and wants $50,000 to settle. Dont most coffee drinkers know the stuff is served hot and you have to be careful not to spill it?
But the corker comes from the ABC News Law and Justice Unit. This one is so ridiculous that its hard to believe. Its the case of the $67-million pair of trousers and a $10 dry cleaning bill.
According to ABC News, plaintiff Roy Pearson, a Washington, D.C. judge, claims he was unable to wear his favorite suit on his first day on the bench because the $800 slacks were missing when he went to pick them up at the dry cleaner. He wants $67 million for his trouble.
The defendants are Korean immigrants Jin and Soo Chung and their son, who own three dry cleaning shops in the area.
In the beginning Pearson demanded $1,150 for a new suit, but after legal wrangling he said no to $3,000, then $4,600, and finally $12,000. He then cited District of Columbia consumer protection laws, saying the Chungs were not living up to their advertised promises. They have signs in their store windows reading Satisfaction Guaranteed and Same Day Service. Pearson contends he is entitled to $1,500 for each day he was not a satisfied customer. Thats now 1,200 days.
He also wants a weekend car rental for the next 10 years so he can take his dry cleaning to another store. Then throw in $500,000 in emotional damages and $542,500 in legal fees, even though he is representing himself in court.
Thats $67 million for one missing pair of slacks. With that amount of money, the judge could buy 83,750 new pairs of $800 slacks. Talk about suing someones pants off.
Judge Pearson even tried to expand it into a class-action lawsuit, seeking neighbors and other customers as plaintiffs. District of Columbia Judge Neal Kravitz said no way. The case goes to trial in June.
When will this litigation frenzy end? Ive been fool enough to believe that some sanity and common sense will eventually emerge and I wont have wacky lawsuits to write about. But as long as there are $67-million lawsuits involving dry cleaning, there will be gold for the mining in courtrooms and ample material for my columns.

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