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Proportionality

June 13, 2007

 Roy L. Pearson, a District of Columbia administrative law judge, first sued Custom Cleaners over a pair of pants that went missing two years ago. He was seeking about $65 million under the D.C. consumer protection act and almost $2 million in common law claims.

He is now focusing his claims on signs in the shop that have since been removed. The suit alleges that Jin Nam Chung, Soo Chung and Ki Chung committed fraud and misled consumers with signs that claimed “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Same Day Service.”

But Chris Manning, the Chungs’ attorney, says that can be considered fraud only if the signs misled a “reasonable” person. No reasonable person, he says, would interpret them to be an unconditional promise of satisfaction.

Excerpt from USA Today story.

This is a really sad commentary on our legal system, and the lack of personal accountability and common sense.   $67 Million, now reduced to $54 Million for a pair of pants?  Whether or not he prevails, the damage is done.  The legal costs, adverse impacts to credit will likely drive the defendants out of business.   Ok, now what genius? 

Sure, there are other dry cleaners in town.  Bet any of them want this judge’s business?  No.  Wonder what dry cleaning insurance rates will do?  People could theoretically sue this country into complete paralysis, where no commerce can occur reasonably.

Certainly, the cleaners have a reasonable duty not to lose or damage the pants, and failing that duty, they should reasonably be expected to replace the pants, or perhaps the whole suit if the customer surrenders the jacket.   That would be proportional.

What is the ethical cost of being “right” in a situation?  Suppose you could have the pound of flesh nearest a person’s heart?  Would you still take it?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 16, 2007 3:11 am

    That is utterly ridiculous. At some point, you just have to give it up and realize that life is too short to worry about crap like that. We lost a lot more money than a pair of pants from someone who didn’t provide the service they said they would, and while we have a couple more years to pursue in small claims court, it won’t happen anytime soon. Life is too short to add more hassle and stress than their already is.

    Back on the point of lawsuits: I hope whatever judge gets his case laughs him out of the classroom and that same judge officiates over the drycleaner’s counter-suit. What a tool

  2. sweetlybroken permalink
    June 20, 2007 4:08 pm

    why is it so important for people to be “right”. To the man who has died on the street in the only pair of pants he owned this is a mystery.

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