CJAC: Civil Justice Association of California

Case of the Missing $65 Million Pants: Update

Posted on 06/28/2016 @ 09:00 AM

Kevin Underhill, of Lowering the Bar (http://loweringthebar.net/), takes a look back at the $65-million lawsuit Roy Pearson filed in 2005 over a missing pair of pants. As a legal humorist, he notes that the case is “a gift that just keeps giving.” Underhill recounts:

This was a titanic struggle between Roy L. Pearson, Jr., then an administrative-law judge in the District of Columbia, and his neighborhood dry-cleaning establishment. Pearson claimed Custom Cleaners lost a pair of his suit pants. Here they are, the cleaners said. Those aren’t mine, he said. It escalated. The cleaners offered to settle, but Pearson could not be satisfied. He refused settlement offers of $1,150, then $3,000, then $12,000 (for lost pants, remember). He eventually sued, alleging multiple violations of a consumer-protection statute; saying he was entitled to $1,500 per violation per defendant per day, he demanded $65,462,500.

Later Pearson filed a brief changing the focus of his claim from the pants to allegedly misleading signs (“Satisfaction Guaranteed”), but he refused to dismiss the case. See “Judge Drops Pants; Suit Still On” (June 6, 2007). Sans pants, his demand was now a more reasonable $54 million. The case went to trial, and was every bit as ridiculous as I had hoped. See “Live-Blogging the Pants Trial” (June 12, 2007). Pearson called no fewer than nine witnesses, including himself; he wept on the stand; and claimed that he hadn’t wanted to litigate but felt the law “gave him no choice.” Nor did it give him anything else. See “Judge Who Lost Pants Loses Case” (June 25, 2007). He appealed.

The timing of all this was unfortunate, since Pearson was up for another term as an ALJ [Administrative Law Judge]. Some (like the Washington Post) felt the matter called his judgment into some question. Eventually, his employers agreed. Surprise! He then sued them for wrongful termination. (He only wanted $1 million for that.) He lost.

To read the full story, click here.

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Op-Ed: Don't eliminate limitations period for climate change statements

Posted on 05/19/2016 @ 09:00 AM

CJAC President Kim Stone’s op-ed regarding SB 1161 appeared in the May 19, 2016 online edition of the Daily Journal. In it she states:

The California Senate is considering entirely eliminating the statute of limitations for lawsuits that government prosecutors bring against companies for statements relating to climate change science. The bill, Senate Bill 1161 is authored by Democratic Sen. Ben Allen of California Senate District 26 (a coastal district that covers from Pacific Palisades/Santa Monica to Palos Verdes).

As introduced, the bill would have extended the statute of limitations from four years, as allowed by current law, to 30 years. But in the Senate Judiciary Committee the bill was amended to have a four year open season on lawsuits, going back forever. In other words, for a four year period, prosecutors could sue companies over statements related to climate change science made at any time in the past. Lawsuits that would have previously been time barred would be revived by Senate Bill 1161.

The bill is unfair and bad public policy. There are good reasons to support and use statutes of limitation.

To read the op-ed in its entirety, click here (subscription required).

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Uber Driver First Named to Lead Suit Opposes $100M Settlement

Posted on 05/18/2016 @ 09:00 AM

A recent article in the Insurance Journal tells the tale of the driver who was originally named to lead a class-action lawsuit over pay and benefits against Uber Technologies Inc. He is opposing the rideshare company’s $100 million settlement.

His objection follows complaints from other drivers, who said the settlement doesn’t provide enough compensation for mileage and other expenses and leaves them as contractors rather than employees.

About this, CJAC president Kim Stone says, “This is what sometimes happens with lawyer-driven class actions. The lawyer gets $25 million. The plaintiffs… not so much.”

To read the full story, click here.

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Classic First-World-Problem Lawsuit: Woman Accuses Starbucks of Putting Too Much Ice in Iced Coffee

Posted on 05/02/2016 @ 09:00 AM

In a recent Slate editorial, Rachel Gross tells in the story of an Illinois woman’s quest to seek damages for too much ice in her Starbucks iced coffee. She writes:

For the past 10 years, the plaintiff has purchased cold drinks from Starbucks and found herself repeatedly chagrined by the copious levels of ice, according to the suit. So rather than stop purchasing drinks at Starbucks, she decided to take legal action. Her class-action lawsuit accuses the coffee giant of false advertising, fraud, and unjust enrichment, calling Starbucks’ cold drinks “defective.” It calls for $5 million in damages on behalf of herself and the millions of Americans who have purchased a Starbucks iced coffee over the past 10 years.

Starbucks responded in a statement, "Our customers understand and expect that ice is an essential component of an ‘iced’ beverage,”

To read the full editorial, click here.

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California Needs Fairness in Asbestos Lawsuits

Posted on 04/11/2016 @ 02:00 PM

An op-ed authored by CJAC president Kim Stone on recently introduced asbestos legislation (Assembly Bill 2315 Olsen/Gray) was featured in the April 11, 2016 Daily Journal.

The California Legislature has an opportunity to make asbestos lawsuits more fair by passing Assembly Bill 2315 (Olsen/Gray). This bill would provide transparency in civil asbestos litigation. Asbestos related diseases like cancer and mesothelioma take a long time to manifest, and people who develop them deserve fair compensation now and in the future. Our current system, however, may be over-compensating current victims at the expense of future victims. California lawmakers should work to protect assets for both current and future victims.

Asbestos litigation is the longest running mass tort litigation in the United States. Litigation has spanned over 40 years and has resulted in hundreds of thousands of claims filed and billions of dollars in compensation paid. Early litigation involved companies that made products containing asbestos. While over 90 companies have gone bankrupt as a result of the litigation, over 60 companies have, through the federal bankruptcy code, created personal injury settlement trusts in order to compensate present and future asbestos claimants. Injured claimants can receive compensation for their harm through the bankruptcy trust system, but they can also receive compensation by suing solvent companies.

To read the full op-ed, click here. (Subscription required)

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