Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The 65 Million Dollar Pants

Everyone hates lawyers, at least until they want to sue somebody. One of the reasons we hate lawyers can be found in a story reported in the Washington Post last week (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/25/AR2007042502763_pf.html): a local attorney was upset with a dry cleaner who lost his pants and, not satisfied with the $150 check the cleaner offered him, opted to sue, seeking $1,150 to buy a whole new suit. After two changes of lawyers and numerous exchanges of letters, the dry cleaner offered him $3,000, then $4,600 and, finally, according to their attorney, $12,000 to make the case go away.

But our intrepid "hero" pressed on. Citing a provision of the District of Columbia's consumer protection law that provides for damages of $1,500 per violation per day, he started punching his calculator: 12 violations over 1,200 days (the whole thing began back in 2002), times three defendants (the owners of the dry cleaners). The total demand now: $65 million.

Let's break for a reality check, here.

Most Americans have faith in the essential fairness of our justice system. Yes, you can get Platinum Plus Justice if you can afford the right lawyers, but for the most part, our system is about as fair and blind as it's likely to be. It's the utterly ridiculous abuses of the system like this that turn people against lawyers as a class and sour them on the ability to receive real justice. I have a fantasy (actually, I have a lot of fantasies, but this one is among the safest) that a moron like this attorney will go to court and sue a cleaner $65 million dollars for a lost pair of pants...and the judge will come down from the bench, slap him silly, grab him by the scruff of his neck and the seat of his pants, and throw him bodily out of the courthouse and into the street. And then fine him - oh - about $50,000 per hour for wasting the court's time.

Like most of my other fantasies, this one isn't likely ever to be realized. But a man can dream, can't he?

Have a good day. More thoughts later.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As long as your fantasty remains a fantasy, this kind of bogus blackmail via the courts will continue. Judges will not do the obvious, which is to make the promulgators of and lawyers for bogus lawsuits of this nature pay all associated court costs. Only then will sanity return to our torts system. However, judges will not do that because more lawsuits require more courts and yes, more judges, with bigger paychecks at the higher courts. One hand is washing the other here, and our system will fail before the soap runs out.