When you hear that a man has sued his dry cleaners for $65 million over a missing pair of pants, you most likely think one thing: Where does one obtain these magic pants, what manner of nefarious wizardry do they possess and can they wield that dreadful sorcery to help me mete out revenge on my legions of enemies?
Um, sorry -- I'm reading "Harry Potter 6" to catch up over here, and I pretty much made that whole ridiculous scenario up, except, of course, for the part about the $65 million and the pants. Indeed, a small dry-cleaning business in Washington, D.C., is close to shutting down because of the aftereffects of a lawsuit brought by an ex-patron who dropped his trousers there in May 2005 and returned some days later to find them missing. Said patron first asked the cleaners to reimburse him for the suit -- a cost of $1,000 -- but around a week later, in a heartwarming swell of good fortune on par with the end of "Forrest Gump," the pants were located, and, as such, the cleaners refused to pay for their being missing.
Now here's where it gets a little numbery (apologies for squirting math into this, but I urge you stick with me, because the punchline will involve the word "pants"). Upon the initial pantsmissingness, the dry cleaners' lawyer said his clients made three settlement offers: $3,000, then $4,600, then $12,000. These offers were refused; in fact the angered, and one imagines half-naked, customer began -- wait for it, wait for it -- pressing his suit! Get it? Pressing! His suit! Ka-Pow!
Right -- anyway, this guy evidently began factoring in things like the cost of renting a car to drive to another dry cleaner, as well as a strict and irritating interpretation of D.C.'s consumer-protection laws, which somehow caused him to arrive at the awe-inspiring $65 million figure. I'm not sure how that happened, but I'm relatively sure that it went something like this: during his calculations, instead of carrying a 1, he multiplied by $6.5 million.
Clearly, that amount is ridiculous. I mean, this is just one pair of pants -- conservatively speaking, they couldn't have been worth more than, what, $30 million, tops? I am assuming, of course, that the pants came with the impressive-yet-tasteful features expected of $30 million trousers: dozens of gold bars hanging everywhere, diamond-studded inseam, a zipper made out of Kanye West and, of course, a detachable space rocket.
Which leaves a scant $35 million left over for emotional damage. And I can go along with that. Listen, pants are awesome. They're constantly ranked my top three favorite genres of clothing (behind "shirts" and "comfortable heated stretch leggings," which, as my therapist and I have discussed, is strictly a comfort thing). But it's hard to remember growing so emotionally attached that you'd ... wait, actually, I take that back. There was this pair of jeans I had once that fit magnificently, were pre-worn to delectable perfection and sported the single Boot Cut to end all Boot Cuts (moreover, and I don't want to sound arrogant here, but I was totally poured into these things).
But still, let's be reasonable. Even if they were stolen by an anti-Jeff conspiracy funded by Karl Rove, Sting and Meredith Grey, I can't imagine suing anyone for them. And even if I did, I'd top out at like $10 million. I mean, our justice system is already junked up with enough gloppy nuisance lawsuits to make something like this have to seem like an outright embarrassment to anyone inside the law profession, which is why it's so awesome that the plaintiff in this case is a D.C. administrative hearings judge named Roy L. Pearson Jr. (Like how I saved that part until now? That's the big mid-column twist. Well, that, and the pants have been dead the whole time).
Anyway, this is all funny now, but it won't be quite so funny when he sues me for pants-related defamation (the precedent there is a case we all learned about in journalism school: Roe v. Jordache), especially with all the free time he'll have once he gets hastily disbarred. I don't think there's a precedent for pants-related disbarment, but I know this: I don't think I'll Google that.
Jeff Vrabel is a freelance writer who cannot tell you how much he hated "Forrest Gump." Argue this point and others at his obligatory blog: www.jeffvrabel.com.