Pearson penultimate (?) update – the trial ends

by David Nieporent on June 14, 2007

The second day of the Roy Pearson pants trial happened yesterday; the Washington Post had another blog post from the scene of the trial. Highlight (or perhaps lowlight?):

It took more than 10 minutes and numerous attempts by both Manning and Judge Judith Bartnoff to get Pearson to answer a question about whether anyone has the right to walk into any cleaners and claim $1,150 simply by saying that their suit had been lost. Finally, Pearson said that the law requires that “The merchant would have an obligation to honor their demand.”

“So your answer is Yes?” Manning asked.

“Yes,” Pearson said.

The courtroom, in which it’s hard to discern any support for Pearson except from his mother and her friend, broke up in laughter. Derisive laughter.

Manning pushed ahead: Does Pearson believe that people should interpret signs “in a reasonable way?”

“Depends on the circumstances,” Pearson said.

Asked to answer yes or no, Pearson said, “No.”

According to the Post’s blogger, the trial is over, and now we just have to wait for the judge’s verdict, which should arrive next week. It’s risky to rely upon media coverage of a trial, particularly from non-lawyer journalists, but from the sound of things, the judge wasn’t significantly more impressed by Pearson than the rest of the civilized world was. (She did throw out one of his claims right away — his claim that “Same Day Service” was fraudulent because not all cleaning was done in one day even when the customer didn’t ask for it.)

Keep in mind that the defendants apparently made a formal offer of judgment in the case, in the neighborhood of $12,000 or so. So if Pearson wins, but wins less than that amount, he may be on the hook for all of the defendants’ legal fees over the last year and a half. Since those fees would amount to far more than the case was worth, it would be poetic justice.

Of course, nothing prevents Pearson from appealing! (Knock on wood.)

Update: Several readers have pointed out to me that the District of Columbia’s Offer of Judgment rule is less generous than the one I’m most used to; while the plaintiffs can recover their costs, these costs do not include attorney’s fees. Therefore, the Cleaners may be able to partly recover their expenses, but only partly.

{ 6 comments }

1 E-Bell 06.14.07 at 9:38 am

The District’s offer of judgment rule only awards costs, not legal fees.

And that’s only for costs after the offer of judgment was made.

So if the verdict is less than their offer, Pearson will have to pay them for things like the cost of making copies, witness fees, etc.

2 NAC 06.14.07 at 10:26 am

Speaking of appeals, there were some comments in the linked blog about why there were so few objections raised during the proceedings, and why Judge Bartnoff didn’t simply toss out the whole mess. Popular opinion seems to be a combination of giving Pearson lots of rope to hang himself with, and reducing the number of grounds on which he can lodge an appeal (no objections/dismissals, no rulings to appeal against). As a non-lawyer reader of this fine blog, I don’t know if that second theory actually has any merit, but the first one seems to. Pearson is a nutjob, and has probably enraged a number of retail/service workers in his time.

3 Justinian Lane 06.14.07 at 11:50 am

And I thought “offer of judgment” legislation prevented frivolous lawsuits!

4 OBQuiet 06.14.07 at 1:03 pm

IANAL so forgive this question.

Could the defendants actually be better off is the judge finds against them in the amount of $1 than if the actually win?

If true, doesn’t that highlight just how screwed up the system is?

5 Samson Isberg 06.14.07 at 2:51 pm

What is frightening is that a man completely lacking in judgement actually is a judge and passes sentence over others. How many like him is out there, banging their gavels?

6 David Nieporent 06.14.07 at 4:31 pm

Justinian, see the update. D.C.’s offer of judgment rule isn’t very generous, so it doesn’t do a very good job of deterring frivolous suits.

OBQuiet: No, they won’t be better off losing than winning.

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