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Archive for the ‘frivolous lawsuits’ Category

Perry WhatleyFrom The Houston Chronicle:

Perry ”Bit” Whatley, 84, a former Baytown refinery worker and lifelong Texan, spent his final days in self-imposed exile, a fugitive from a more than two-year-old fight with the state probate courts.

Whatley was living in Arizona when he died, but it was not where he wanted to be, away from his home, cut off from his family and his $2 million fortune.

It was an unlikely, but perhaps unavoidable, end for the retired machinist, a frugal man who had wisely invested his savings in Humble Oil, which became Exxon, then Exxon Mobil. The investment made him a millionaire nearly twice over, and yet for 20 years after his retirement he lived a simple life in a simple Baytown bungalow until last summer, when he fled the jurisdiction of Harris County Probate Court.

Whatley died Feb. 14 in a rental home in Tempe in the company of his longtime caregiver, Dawn Johnson Whatley, 63, whom he married in a bedside ceremony in January 2005. His wife was his sole heir.

The Whatleys, both seniors with serious health problems, abandoned their own home and went into hiding together last summer. They left to avoid a hearing and, later, orders issued by Probate Judge Mike Wood that declared Whatley incapacitated, took away control of his assets and could have forced him into a nursing home.

Perry Whatley’s sad saga started out as a dispute between his niece and his new wife, two people who professed devotion to him and who also sought control over his fortune, his health care and his basic life decisions.

But the fight, taken to court in April 2005 by Whatley’s niece, morphed quickly into a twisted legal free-for-all and a near-infamous example for critics who claim Texas probate courts have run amok. It also underscores how worries over a loved one — seemingly simple at first — can escalate into a costly and chaotic legal conflict.

It took decades for Whatley to make his money.

In less than two years, nearly $1.5 million has been spent on legal bills and court-authorized expenses for his probate case and related litigation, based on case documents.

And though Whatley is gone, the fight over what remains of his money is far from over.

Read the rest of this disturbing story at The Houston Chronicle.

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[TiGirl is unavailable right now, so at her suggestion I'm updating one of her previous entries by posting a new article from my blog - ENM]

By now, most people have probably heard about the case involving Roy Pearson, a Washington, DC administrative law judge, who sued a dry cleaner for $54 million, over a missing pair of pants. Today, a judge ruled that he not only doesn’t get a dime from the dry cleaner, he will also have to pay the dry cleaners’ legal fees and costs.

Much more interesting, however, is what happened in the courtroom. Here’s a description from ABC News:

The trial proved nearly as dramatic — and unusual — as the plaintiff’s claims. On the witness stand, Pearson broke down in tears and had to take a break from his testimony because he became too emotional while questioning himself about his experience with the missing trousers.

In his opening statement, Pearson came out swinging, telling the court, “Never before in recorded history have a group of defendants engaged in such misleading and unfair business practices.”

Repeatedly referring to himself as “we,” Pearson sought to present himself as the leader of a class of tens of thousands, if not a half million people, consisting of local residents he believes are at risk of falling for such insidious business practices as posting “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Same Day Service” signs. Pearson said at one point in court filings that he planned to call 63 witnesses.

“Mr. Pearson, you are not ‘we.’ You are an ‘I,'” Bartnoff told him.

As Pearson explained the details of the missing pants, he struggled to get through his hour and a half of testimony, most of which concerned his credentials and his background.

He became visibly emotional when he reached the point in the story in which he recounted a confrontation with Soo Chung from the dry cleaning store.

“These are not my pants,” he testified, and said he told her, “I have in my adult life, with one exception, never worn pants with cuffs.”

Pearson testified that Chung insisted, saying, “These are your pants.”

Pearson then rushed from the courtroom, overcome with emotion.

From that description, I think it’s pretty obvious that Pearson is more than a little off in the head. I’m not saying the pants presented were his pants, because I’ve had a lot of dry cleaners screw up on my stuff so it’s very possible they made a mistake; but at the same time, $54 million over a lost pair of pants? Give me a frickin’ break.

Obviously, it was a frivolous lawsuit which should never have been brought in the first place (after all, the Chungs at one point offered him $12,000, which is more than enough to make up for his lost pants). It has damaged the Chungs’ reputation, their credit rating, and generally destroyed their lives. One of the Chungs said that they just want to go back to Korea after this fiasco.

So I think paying the Chungs’ attorney fees and court costs just is not enough. Allow them to amend their counterclaim, if necessary, then grant them major damages for what they’ve endured. That not only will be a step in the direction of making this right again for a couple of hardworking immigrants who have suffered greatly at the hands of a man who intentionally abused our system of justice, it will also serve to warn others who might be tempted to do something that stupid.

Then again, I think you really need to be crazy in order to think you’re entitled to that much money just because your pants were lost at the drycleaner’s, so even that probably won’t serve as a deterrent to other crazies who think something that small is worth zillions.

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