Reconciling assholes for nearly a decade.

The Pants Guy is African American - is it relevant?

The guy who sued a Korean dry cleaners for allegedly losing this suit pants, for $67 million in Washington D.C (he lost after years of litigation, but is now  asking for reconsideration of the verdict). 

In (almost?) every news story that I've seen about it, the fact the cleaners were Korean is mentioned.  It is arguably somewhat relevant because language and cultural issues play a part in the story.  For example, because they let him come back after banning him from their shop, prior to the lost pants incident,  and because at one point they had to get somebody else to talk to him because they didn't speak good enough English.

In most stories it is mentioned that the plaintiff is an administrative law judge who represented himself in the case.  In very few, it is mentioned that he is African American (I didn't know until yesterday).

Is it relevant that he is African American?

I personally wouldn't have thought so, but apparently some people think his cultural issues are as relevant to understanding the case as the Koreans'.

What do you think? Why?
Permalink s 
July 12th, 2007 8:12am
It is relevant but you don't talk about it. SWB (Suing) is a ripe case for a reverse law suit amounting to six hundred thousand brazillian* dollars should things go the other way.

* A new unit of American measurement I have learned recently. http://www.office-humour.co.uk/content/images/2007/07/6194.jpg
Permalink Send private email (100+85)/2 
July 12th, 2007 8:23am
My take on this (being a 'local' DC issue):

1st generation immigrants will generally be less likely to even know, much less exercise, their full legal rights, so their heritage is a key element to the story.

The black dude is a sitting judge. His race is not important to the story, but his profession is. He really abused the system in ways only a legal professional could, against a small family run business who (could/should) have known better but probably didn't precisely because of their relatively recent immigrant status.

Pants guy is a rich bastard abusing the legal system he has taken an oath to uphold. The fact that he is black, as 60% of Washington DC happens to be, is quite inconsequential to the story.
Permalink arg! 
July 12th, 2007 8:47am
> against a small family run business who (could/should) have known better

huh?

What did the cleaners do wrong?

He couldn't even prove that they lost his trousers.

And they went massively of their way to satisfy this guy.

The plaintiff's position is that because they had a sign that had a sign in the shop that said "Satisfaction Guaranteed", they are required to do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that he demands to satisfy him.  Including paying customers any amount of money that they might demand, even if the customer has lost nothing, and the shop can demonstrate that the customer has lost nothing.
Permalink s 
July 12th, 2007 9:06am
"What did the cleaners do wrong?"

instead of hiring a decent attourney to squash this at a much lower level at the VERY start in small claims, they did as you said... they went massively out of their way to satisfy this guy.

This battle has been waged and continually escalated by the pants guy for several years now.
Permalink arg! 
July 12th, 2007 9:11am
They hired a decent attorney when he sued.  And the attorney has now squashed him and is seeking (and likely to get) him to pay legal fees for the frivilous law suit.

They want out of their way to satisfy him BEFORE he sued.

It was never going to be in small claims, because of the value of the lawsuit, and the plaintiff knew exactly how to blow this into a major case lasting years... he is a judge afer all... that was his entire strategy... he more or less telegraphed it.
Permalink s 
July 12th, 2007 9:17am
Even still. The cleaners offered to settle for as much as $12,000 and contemplated a move back to Korea.

they were not exactly recieving what I would call decent legal advice, and if they were they were obviously not too trusting of it, probably due to their recent immigrant status and lack of knowledge about the legal system.

Which drives home my point that their ethnic background and [relatively] recent immigration status is noteworthy in the story, while the judge's race is not.
Permalink arg! 
July 12th, 2007 9:30am
It  was actually entirely rational to offer him $12K, even though they had done nothing wrong -- because he was making their lives hell and has done for years.

The reality is that they have spent well over $80K on legal fees,  and many not recover a cent from him.  They _may_ recover attorney fees, but usually it is a long shot,  and even if they win, it doesn't look like he has the means to pay up in any case.

A good lawyer, would have advised them early on to offer a small settlement, rather than spend close to $100K fighting a case, when there is little hope of getting any of the $100K back.... and it seems their lawyer did.
Permalink s 
July 12th, 2007 9:34am
nah, it's not relevant.  i can totally see a white judge doing the same thing.
Permalink Kenny 
July 12th, 2007 9:49am
Joey Pants would have offered to buy the place thru third party, taken out insurance, firebmombed it, and then bounced the original check (somehow). THus collecting insurance and leaving them high-and-dry cleaners.
Permalink Send private email strawdog sobriquet 
July 12th, 2007 9:55am
>> A good lawyer, would have advised them early on to offer a small settlement <<

This guy is so out-there that I doubt that this would have worked.

If this had happened to me, if they had offered me a $75 gift card to Nordstrom's, I would have been overjoyed.
Permalink xampl 
July 12th, 2007 10:13am
If their lawyers had any scruples, they would rebate most of the dry cleaner's legal fees.

The prices lawyers charge is in itself a crime, in my opinion.  I recently had to shell out $250/hour for minor, routine legal bullshit.  Those rates are insane.
Permalink Anon for this one 
July 12th, 2007 11:07am
> If their lawyers had any scruples, they would rebate most of the dry cleaner's legal fees.

If programmers [or fill in any blank] had any scruples, they would rebate most of their customer's legal fees...
Permalink s 
July 12th, 2007 11:41am
> This guy is so out-there that I doubt that this would have worked.

BTW, I agree.

But the $12k settlement offer was a rational choice to _try_
Permalink s 
July 12th, 2007 11:41am
regarding race. At the end of the trial they finally showed the guy's picture and then you could see he is black, but before that, I saw no indication.

In LA, blacks hate Koreans. Huge racism there. Apparently because the Koreans are among the only people willing to run shops in the bad parts of town, so blacks see Koreans as shopkeepers and then view them as 'the man' who is 'keeping them down' and hates them for it. Koreans were oblivious to all this. During the Rodney King riots, blacks made a point of burning down every Korean owned business they could find and the only Koreans who got out with their shops intact were those who had semiautomatic rifles and stood on their roofs firing off warning shots at anyone who approached.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 12th, 2007 1:11pm
"they were not exactly recieving what I would call decent legal advice"

I don't know about that. I think no matter what attorney you get, he would not be prepared to deal with a $60 million suit over a single pair of pants. The mystery to me is how could the judges not dismiss this case. Apparently because DC DOES have laws allowing these sorts of suits and the fact was everything the judge did was based on actual laws. So, having all these laws that allowed $1500/day fines indefinitely for consumer protection false claims or whatever, that's what enabled him to proceed and the courts had no legal basis not to take it seriously.

You'll always have crazy people and people who want to abuse the system. So you can't rely on good will in designing a system, you have to protect against abuse in the system itself, or it will be gamed.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 12th, 2007 1:18pm
>> If their lawyers had any scruples, they would rebate most of the dry cleaner's legal fees.

>If programmers [or fill in any blank] had any scruples, they would rebate most of their customer's legal fees...


No, I disagree.  If some poor Koreans are being sued by a maniac for millions of dollars, there's no reason why the lawyers representing them can't represent them for a reasonable amount of money. 

They have you by the short hairs and they take full advantage of it.  Just because they can get away with it doesn't make it right.
Permalink AMerrickanGirl 
July 12th, 2007 3:29pm
> If some poor Koreans are being sued by a maniac

Lawyers can work pro bono for charity cases. A dry cleaning business that services federal judges is not poor. It's well in the middle-class. Even the $80K legal fees, although annoying, is worth a fraction of their business or their home.

It seems a large portion of the Korean doctors and lawyers I meet grew up in grocery store or laundromat households.
Permalink Send private email strawdog sobriquet 
July 12th, 2007 3:45pm
> If some poor Koreans are being sued by a maniac for millions of dollars, there's no reason why the lawyers representing them can't represent them for a reasonable amount of money. 


You don't know how many hours, court appearances, motions, and legal research went into this case (both from lawyers and support staff). I suspect a lot, because the pants guy's intent was to make the case as costly as possible in order to force them to settle (plus he had fantasies that the Koreans would pay him for his legal work against them).

The Koreans weren't penniless, they actually had more than 1 dry cleaning store, and probably a home.

Are you saying that the lawyers should have charged the Koreans because the other side's case was weak (although time consuming), the Koreans really needed helped, and somebody had to do it, even though the Koreans could afford to pay??

The equivalent would be programmers writing small business software for free, even though the businesses can afford to pay, even if it takes lots of time and resources to write the software -- provided the algorithms aren't too technically complicated.  Obviously that doesn't happen too often.
Permalink s 
July 12th, 2007 4:00pm
In the end, the lawyer won, so he earned his money. If the legal fees were really $80k that is a huge bargain.

Saying they service rich judges is not relevant. Rich judges eat at McDonalds, so therefore McDonalds cashiers are rich?

There's a defense fund for the people and they have gotten some money from other Koreans to help, but they've still gone into serious debt to pay for this.

Few rich people would chose to spend their days running a dry cleaners.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 12th, 2007 4:06pm
I've spent more than an hour on this case myself. I am going bill the plaintiff judge for damages to my nervous system ($100/hr isn't too bad is it?).
Permalink Send private email strawdog sobriquet 
July 12th, 2007 4:15pm
>The Pants Guy is African American - is it relevant?

Yes. The shopkeepers were Koreans. Blacks hating koreans is some weird racial thing that started in LA and spread all over the country. A korean-americna girlfriend of mine gets hit on by black guys at the gym every so often, and the conversation is always like this:

black dude: "so, what are you. vietnamese?"
korean girl: "no, I'm korean"
black dude: "oh. that's cool. I ain't got any hate for your people. can i get your number?"  ...etc, awkward
Permalink hello. 
July 12th, 2007 5:10pm
"Yes. The shopkeepers were Koreans. Blacks hating koreans is some weird racial thing that started in LA and spread all over the country"

Hmm, never heard of that one.  There is this korean girl on her team that gives me dirty looks and doesnt say much to me (10 feet away and not a word).  I thought it was because she was a dike.

Hmm, maybe I should ask if she hates black people.  Or hates me.  Hmm.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 12th, 2007 5:19pm
I've not heard of koreans hating blacks, but you never know. I do know that a korean parent will go insane if their daughter marries a black, but they will go MORE insane if she marries a japanese, somewhat less a white. Chinese they can tolerate, but it's not ideal. They are into korean racial purity somewhat.

With the girl, koreans can seem standoffish. You should approach her and ask where are the good korean restaurants that are authentic because the ones you've been to aren't great, and no you hadn't heard of that one where is it, I'm not familiar with that part of town maybe we could meet there this weekend?
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 12th, 2007 5:31pm

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