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Monday, June 25, 2007

News Flash: Lost Trousers Not Worth $54 Million

Update on the great American pants-suit; which I reported on here.

DC Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff has tossed out Judge Pearson's $54 million claim against the Chung's dry cleaning business. The case was all about words.

Pearson claimed that the words "Satisfaction Guaranteed" posted in the dry cleaning shop means that the cleaner must satisfy the whims of each customer -- or faces massive lawsuits. But the judge held:

"A reasonable consumer would not interpret 'Satisfaction Guaranteed' to mean that a merchant is required to satisfy a customer's unreasonable demands."

Which is, incidently, a great example of a tautology: a hypothetical reasonable consumer wouldn't use an unreasonable interpretation. Of course not, he would use the Judge's interpretation. No matter, it got the job done.

As for the Chungs, they say they have no hard feelings and that Pearson is welcome to patronize their shop any time. Come, come be reasonable!

8 comments:

litassistant said...

Isn't "reasonable consumer" an oxymoron? Are any of us truly reasonable when it comes to asserting our "the customer is always right" rights? Granted, few would go as far as Judge Pearson did, which has led to his public vilification, but is there any among us who hasn't said or thought that at some point?

Bill Sunkel said...

Ironic that the plaintiff is a judge. I would love to see the damages calculation. To paraphrase Chris Gardner from The Pursuit of Happyness, "Those must have been some really nice pants!" Adam, it's always a treat to read your work, and I look forward to the new book with great anticipation. Best of luck with it!

Adam Freedman said...

Litassistant, I don't think "reasonable consumer" is an oxymoron, but it's a very ambiguous construct, just like theh "reasonable man" (or "reasonable person") of tort law. In some courts, the "reasonable man" is taken to be an "average man" (or "the man on the Clapham Omnibus" as one English judge put it). By that logic, the "reasonable consumer" would be the "average consumer" and your point would be well taken (the average consumer probably does get extremely frustrated with dry cleaners). But more often, the "reasonable man" is a hypothetical ideal person; basically an empty vessel into which the judge pours his own concept of "reasonableness."

But - to be fair - even if you take the "average consumer" approach. Sure, the average consumer might have *thought* about suing the dry cleaner, but then the average person doesn't generally act on these impulses (thank goodness)!

Adam Freedman said...

PS - Hey Bill, thanks for your post!

litassistant said...

I think the "sue anyone that breathes" mentality is getting worse with each generation. My 20 year old son is always asking "Can't I/you sue them?" whenever anything happens that he doesn't like or think is right. And really, who can blame people for suing everytime they feel they've been wronged when they tend to get settlement offers whether they deserve it or not? Pearson was offered $12,000 at one point - for a pair of pants.

"Reasonable" is getting much less reasonable with every generation, I fear. We're living in an age of entitlement, at least in the U.S. Everyone has a right to whatever they feel entitled. Today, I read a report on some guy in Florida (go figure) who is upset because he can't get a job. He's covered with tattoos and feels employers are discriminating against him. So he's now asking for legislation to force employers to hire him. He's entitled to that, or so he thinks.

Adam Freedman said...

Amen, litassisant.

That's why the pants suit is so great - just like the McDonald's coffee lawsuit. It might nudge public opinion toward tort reform. Or at least one can hope.

litassistant said...

We should have known.

Manning said that Pearson said he would appeal.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/offbeat/2007-06-25-missing-pants_N.htm

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