Another $54 Million Lawsuit: No Pants This Time
What has Roy Pearson wrought?
Who knew that a year after the $54 million pants suit (yes, it was originally $65 million, but who's counting?), the cool thing to do would be to sue folks for $54 million? Heck, a dispute is hardly worth talking about unless you've got a $54 million lawsuit ready to roll behind it.
Now comes Raelyn Campbell, a District resident who has slapped Best Buy, the big appliance and electronics retailer, with a $54 million suit because the store supposedly lost the customer's laptop computer, which she had put in for repairs.
(Meanwhile, our good friend Mr. Pearson, who lost his case against the neighborhood dry cleaners after they purportedly lost his pants, has been stripped of his job as a D.C. administrative law judge and is, natch, appealing his case with his customary zeal.)
Campbell lays out her suit in extraordinary detail on, of course, her own blog, where she presents the horrifying tale of, yes, "the reprehensible state of consumer property and privacy protection practices at America's largest consumer electronics retailer."
The case in two sentences:
Campbell alleges that last year, after she left her malfunctioning 'puter at the Best Buy in Tenleytown for service, it was stolen, or as the aggrieved customer puts it, Best Buy "allowed my computer to be stolen," "tried to cover up the theft," and responded to pleas for help "with indifference and insults." Best Buy counters that they're sorry, but bad things happen, and hey, as a company spokesman has been telling reporters, Campbell "was offered and collected $1,110.35" as well as "a $500 gift card for her inconvenience."
Campbell says the payment from Best Buy was transferred into her credit card account without her knowledge or approval (ok, I lied: three sentences.)
The good news here is that Campbell readily concedes that $54 million is an unreasonable demand. The bad news is that the case is in your D.C. Superior Court, where you are paying for this silliness.
I spoke to Christopher Manning, who defended the Chung family, the victim and dry cleaners owner in the Pearson lawsuit, and together we lamented what Pearson has unleashed upon the world.
"The notion that the frivolity of Pearson v. Chung could have spawned copycats is disheartening," Manning says. "In my experience, reasonable minds agree that lawsuits seeking a recovery so grossly out of proportion to any alleged injury actually suffered do nothing but harm to all those involved and to the credibility of the legal system in general. My expectation is that the long term lesson from Pearson v. Chung and any of its unwanted progeny will be that these types of ridiculous claims are ill-advised, do not pay and ultimately have no place in our civil justice system."
I hope he's right, but I wouldn't bet even my slowly-dying, decade-old Honda on it. (Hey, the bushings are going bad--shouldn't I sue? Rule #623 of life: When the mechanic uses the word "bushings," it's time to make the rounds of those nice car salesmen.)
Campbell, perhaps following the path blazed by Pearson, is representing herself. She is a fan of ALL CAPS in her letters. She seems to have a lot of time to work on this matter.
But unlike Pearson, she seems to realize the central absurdity of her crusade. She gives Pearson his props in a letter to Best Buy that she copied to the District's Attorney General: Explaining her $54 million claim, she writes, "You will note that this is approximately the same amount requested in the now-infamous 'Pants Suit Judge vs. Mom-and-Pop Drycleaners' case.... I will be the first to admit that it is an absurd amount of money. However, I chose this amount for two reasons. First, I have no clue what amount of money might be sufficient to persuade Best Buy to reassess its ways and implement adequate policies and procedures to more effectively safeguard future customers' property....
"Second, I have chosen this amount with the hope that it will generate interest among the media."
That's where I get off this choo-choo. Yes, I have fallen for Campbell's gambit. Yes, as Supreme Chronicler of The Pants Suit--I know this because Korean TV crews keep interviewing me about the case, even all these months later (I had one at the office the other day who said he was from the Korean 60 Minutes, which, for reasons that didn't quite make it through the translator, apparently runs about four hours)--I feel a moral obligation to provide reasonable updates on all things pants.
So here you have it. But I am finished with this one. (Unless it gets really juicy or something.) (You know how these things are.) (Declining industry and all that.) (Competitive pressures.) (The usual excuses.) Ok, you can go back to the primaries now.
By Marc Fisher |
February 14, 2008; 11:53 AM ET
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