The $67,000,000 pair of pants. 05.02.2007

ABC article:

How’s $67 milllion for a dry cleaning bill? A Washington, D.C., lawyer is suing an area dry cleaning business for losing a pair of his trousers. The business owners claim they have his pants, but he’s pressing ahead with his suit.

Plaintiff Roy Pearson, a judge in Washington, D.C., says in court papers that he’s been through the ringer over a lost pair of prized pants he wanted to wear on his first day on the bench.

This is actually making me physically angry. I have nothing but contempt for lawyers who use their professional expertise for personal gain or spite.

He says in court papers that he has endured “mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort.”

It’s a pair of pants. A pair of pants. Unless these trousers were made of wool from the golden fleece itself and threaded with the silken hair of Rapunzel, it’s just pants.

He says he was unable to wear that favorite suit on his first day of work.

Oh shit, a sign of the apocalypse.

And just to add to the total absurdity of the situation:

The ABC News Law & Justice Unit has calculated that for $67 million Pearson could buy 84,115 new pairs of pants at the $800 value he placed on the missing trousers in court documents. If you stacked those pants up, they would be taller than eight Mount Everests. If you laid them side by side, they would stretch for 48 miles.

Ignoring for the moment why a judge needs to wear $800 pants, that’s $66,999,200 for his “mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort.” Unless he’s the protagonist in a movie called The Passion of the Christ, there’s something seriously askew with the level of compensation expected above the material costs of the pants.

It was May 2005 and Pearson was about to begin his new job as an administrative judge. Naturally, he wanted to wear a nice outfit to his first day of work. He said in court papers that he tried on five Hickey Freeman suits from his closet, but found them all to be “too tight,” according to the Washington Post.

“I’m a judge who can afford $800 pants. But I’m too cheap to buy more than one pair of pants that fit.”

First, Pearson demanded $1,150 for a new suit. Lawyers were hired, legal wrangling ensued and eventually the Chungs offered Pearson $3,000 in compensation.

No dice.

Then they offered him $4,600.

No dice.

Finally, they offered $12,000 for the missing gray trousers with the red and blue stripes.

Pearson said no.

He was offered $12,000 for a pair of pants that ostensibly cost $800. Expensive pants are starting to sound like a lucrative investment opportunity. If I can manage to lose the pants, and get offered $12,000, I just made a 1500% return.

That’s awesome.

This is the sort of thing that other judges should be denouncing loudly. This is the sort of thing where lawyers should be offering to defend the dry cleaner pro bono.

Sure, the dry cleaner lost the pants. But they offered much more than fair compensation.