Lawsuits (Ridiculous)

Twenty-One-Octillion-Dollar Demand Still Not a Record

paper moneyBenjamins (image: Tracy O via flickr)

According to the UK’s Law Society Gazette, a “serial litigant” who is upset about—well, probably about a lot of things, but especially about a 2015 arbitration, has been banned from filing in the High Court for two years for bringing frivolous claims. The last straw was a lawsuit he filed in early 2021 against certain people involved in the arbitration, a lawsuit in which he challenged judgments against him that were already settled and sought damages in an amount that’s not entirely clear but was at least $48 quadrillion and may have exceeded $21 octillion.

Now, arguably, even $48 quadrillion is a lot of money. But would that be the largest demand ever made? Not even close.

The court’s order discusses the history of the matter in some detail, “in order to explain quite how profoundly misconceived this litigation is.” The court concedes it is probably a “vain hope” to think this explanation will persuade the claimant to cut it out, but explains anyway.

The basic problem, the court says, is “the Claimant’s continuing and seemingly irremediable dissatisfaction” with the outcome of the 2015 arbitration. Apparently there was some kind of contract involving “the exchange of plots of land for a specified weight of fine gold,” probably the standard kind that I’m sure you’re all familiar with. The contract included a clause requiring any disputes to be arbitrated, and a dispute indeed arose. But for various reasons (probably disputed), the arbitration was never completed.

As a result, in 2016 the claimant began filing lawsuits accusing various participants of fraud, breach of contract, bad faith, “damages to injury to feelings,” and so forth. And almost immediately the courts began dismissing these lawsuits, using terms such as “totally without merit,” “patently unsupported,” “plainly hopeless,” “increasingly bizarre,” and “so absurd as to require no further comment.” None of which seem very encouraging, or at least they didn’t when they came up in my job evaluations. But this claimant was undeterred. In 2018, a judge banned him from filing any further claims for two years. And when the two years was up, he went right back at it.

With no greater success, as the judge held last week, after another quick browse through the thesaurus:

I have no hesitation in concluding that the Claimant’s contention that he is entitled to rescind any of the judgments that bind him is utterly hopeless. He has no real prospect of making out any of the necessary criteria….

The Claimant has concocted a complete fantasy, for which there is no evidence at all, of there having been collusion between the Defendants [to conceal something from him]…. There was, in fact, nothing to hide, since the [fact] has no such legal consequence as he contends for, and there is no basis whatsoever for inferring that anyone involved acted dishonestly.

Nor was it irrelevant that the amount of the claimant’s demands seemed a little exaggerated. This first became apparent back in 2015, when a clerk noticed the claimant had not filled in the section of an arbitration form asking him to state the amount in dispute. The clerk emailed, seeking clarification, and this happened:

The Claimant responded by email on 29 April 2015, apologising for his “slip up”, and saying that the claim was worth “USD 4.812324800212413e+16.” Quite what that figure was supposed to mean is obscure. The case worker, unsurprisingly, responded asking for [British money] and … the Claimant [replied] that the dispute was worth “about GBP 33.3 Quadrillion”. The case worker replied to that email that same day thanking him for clarifying and saying they would be in touch.

Well, there’s nothing “obscure” about “USD 4.812324800212413e+16.” It’s just 4.812324800212413 x 1016 dollars, or a smidge over $48 quadrillion (£33.3 quadrillion, at the time). What was obscure was the basis for this valuation. This got no clearer as time went on. But the number did get bigger.

In a December 2015 filing, the claimant sought “2,983,685,978,715,270 kgs of gold plus damages for non-pecuniary losses valued at £196,000.” This is my favorite of all the demands, because it suggests he would have been unhappy with a mere 2.98+ quadrillion kilograms of gold, or about 105 quadrillion ounces, which at 2015 prices would have been worth about 111 quintillion dollars, because he thought he was also entitled to another $250,000 for pain and suffering. Personally I might be willing to let that part go as a show of good faith under the circumstances, but maybe that’s just me.

But in May 2016, the claimant demanded, according to the court, “583,387,844,759,442,000,000,000 kg of gold (or more than the total amount of gold ever mined in the world).” I know what you’re thinking: “Wait a minute—only six months had passed, and only about 3,500 tons of gold are mined in the world every year, so one of his two numbers has to be wrong.” Nope! They’re both wrong, smartass.

According to the World Gold Council (which says its members “are the world’s most forward-thinking gold mining companies”), the best estimates are that, to date, “around 205,238 tonnes of gold has been mined throughout history.” That’s metric tons, so it represents 205,238,000 kilograms. And if you compare that to the number above, you can see that the claimant’s demand was in fact “more than the total amount of gold ever mined in the world,” exceeding it by an amount I would describe as “a lot.”

This guy might have been banned from court even if he’d been more reasonable, but demanding umpteen zillion times the amount of gold currently available to the human race didn’t help his cause.

But as big as his biggest number was, it’s still not the biggest demand ever made. I calculate the May 2016 demand as being worth something in the neighborhood of 21.6 octillion dollars. And I could be off by a decimal place or two and it wouldn’t matter, because it would still fall embarrassingly short of Anton Purisima’s glorious 2014 effort in which he demanded two thousand decillion dollars ($2,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000), or as I preferred to say, “two octillion gigadollars.” See Two-Undecillion-Dollar Demand Spells Trouble for Au Bon Pain” (May 13, 2014); see also How Long Would It Take Ted Olson to Bill Two Octillion Gigadollars?” (May 14, 2014). Now that was a lot of money.

All I can say is, try harder, my friend, if and when they let you back in the courthouse.