Plaintiff won't pocket $54 million after losing lawsuit over pants

WASHINGTON — A judge ruled Monday that no pair of pants is worth $54 million, rejecting a lawsuit that took a dry cleaner's promise of "Satisfaction Guaranteed" to its most litigious extreme.

Roy L. Pearson's lawsuit grew out of a simple complaint — that a District of Columbia neighborhood dry cleaners lost the pants from a suit and tried to give him a pair that were not his — but came to illustrate, for many, serious flaws in the legal system.

His claim, reduced from $67 million, was based on a strict interpretation of the city's consumer-protection law, which imposes fines of $1,500 per violation, as well as damages for inconvenience, mental anguish and attorney's fees for representing himself.

But District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff ruled that the owners of Custom Cleaners did not violate the consumer-protection law by failing to live up to Pearson's expectations of the "Satisfaction Guaranteed" sign once displayed in the store.

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

Bartnoff wrote that Pearson, an administrative-law judge, also failed to prove that the pants the dry cleaner tried to return were not the pants he took in.

Bartnoff ordered Pearson to pay clerical court costs of about $1,000 to defendants Soo Chung, Jin Nam Chung and Ki Y. Chung.