Two-Undecillion-Dollar Demand Spells Trouble for Au Bon Pain

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Looks like we have a new record for Largest Known Demand:

Anton Purisima v. Au Bon Pain Store, Carepoint Health, Hoboken University Medical Center, Kmart Store 7749, St. Luke's Emergency Dept., New York City Transit Authority, City of New York, NYC MTA, LaGuardia Airport Administration, Amy Caggiula, Does 1-1000, Case No. 1:14 CV 2755 (S.D.N.Y. filed 4/11/2014).

Civil rights violations, personal injury, discrimination on national origin, retaliation, harassment, fraud, attempted murder, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and conspiracy to defraud. $2,000 decillion ($2,000,000,000,

Pro Se

Although, surprisingly, the complaint appears to be frivolous, Mr. Purisima does seem to have gotten his math right, although he could have simplified the demand a little. According to this very helpful big-number page, a "decillion" in American usage means a 1 followed by 33 zeroes. "$2,000 decillion" therefore could of course be written as a 2 followed by 36 zeroes, which is in fact what Anton has in parentheses. So good work there.

But it turns out that a 1 followed by 36 zeroes is an "undecillion." (This is a little embarrassing, since I've been going around using that term to refer to any number that is not a decillion, but I guess that was causing a lot of confusion anyway.) So he could have simply demanded "two undecillion dollars," and (after a little research) everybody would still have known what he was talking about. Sure, it would be more fun to call it "two octillion gigadollars," but that's getting a little ridiculous.

Okay, it's a lot more fun to call it "two octillion gigadollars," as confirmed by an ongoing experiment in which I say that out loud in my office and then laugh at it.

Not that it matters, because these demands have long since outstripped the total amount of money in the world. That was already the case back in 2008, when we were only talking about quadrillions. See "Katrina Victim Sues for Three Quadrillion Dollars," Lowering the Bar (Jan. 12, 2008). At that time, I calculated that the plaintiff was essentially demanding the entire U.S. gross domestic product for the next 228 years (give or take), and that if he were paid in pennies (as he should have been) it would take 301 stacks of pennies, each stack high enough to reach Saturn, to satisfy the judgment.

Less than two years later, Dalton Chiscolm decided it would take a lot more than that to send a message to Bank of America, which he sued for 1.784 septillion dollars (a.k.a. 1,784 billion trillion dollars, I think). "If he thinks Bank of America has branches on every planet in the cosmos," Reuters then quoted a math professor as saying, "then it might start to make some sense."

That remained the record-holder despite John-Theodore: Anderson's (stupid punctuation in original) effort in this 2010 case, in which he started out demanding a relatively restrained $918 billion for breach of contract but then got mad and amended his complaint to make it $38 quadrillion. That still only put him in second place, though.

All of them have now been eclipsed by Anton, of course, who I've just noticed is also seeking punitive damages, I guess in case an undecillion-dollar judgment is not enough to send a message to the various defendants. Exactly what each of them did is not entirely clear, although the plaintiff claims a dog bit him on the middle finger and that he's routinely overcharged for coffee at LaGuardia Airport, among other things. (Also, some Chinese people took his picture without permission.)

The complaint does allege that the defendants' acts caused damages that "cannot be repaired by money" and are "therefore priceless." Granted, no amount of money can truly compensate a plaintiff for what he or she has lost, but two octillion gigadollars would be a pretty good start.