Another lost-pants case

by Walter Olson on September 6, 2008

Unlike Roy Pearson in the celebrated D.C. case, Charleston, W.V. lawyer Richard D. Jones isn’t demanding $67 million from the dry cleaner, nor is he a sitting judge (his practice is in civil defense). About the only visible angle that distinguishes the case from the entirely ordinary: Jones wants punitive damages from defendants Pressed For Time and Lisa Williams. (W.V. Record, more).

{ 3 comments }

1 VMS 09.06.08 at 7:40 pm

Jones has a good case. It is a classic breach of bailment. His damagaes are the cost of NEW clothes, and he can apparently prove this because he has the receipts (invoice). In a breach of bailment for lost/misdelivered goods, once the bailor proves the value of replacement goods, the burden is on the bailee to prove the dimunition in value of the bailed goods which, in this case he cannot do since they are lost.

Jones apparently tried to settle with the cleaner for his proper damages, but was shunned. So now he is asking for what he is due in actual damages. Of course he will not get punitive damages, but claiming this excess forces the cleaner to expend money to defend the case and puts Jones into a better settlement position.

Forcing the cleaner to go to court will probably aid the next guy whose clothes are lost by this cleaner. Perhaps the cleaner next time will make an attempt to settle the case by haggling with the guy.

The Pearson case is entirely different. Even though the cleaner was willing to pay many-fold the value of his suit just to end the litigation, Pearson refused. Pearson’s litigation was purely vexatious. The court however improperly dismissed Pearson’s lawsuit. The court should have awarded Pearson the value of his suit (say $400.00), and sanctioned him $1,200 for abusing the court system.

2 Todd Rogers 09.06.08 at 7:54 pm

I wish I could be privy to all the pre-trial attempts at negotiation.

3 E-Bell 09.08.08 at 11:56 am

Punitive damages are obviously not appropriate in this type of case. I’m no expert on ethics, but I would imagine that seeking punitive damages where they are not available in an attempt to strong-arm a settlement is probably not the right thing to do.

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