The Associated Press reported on Thursday, May 3, 2007 that Mr. and Mrs. Chung, immigrants from South Korea, opened their own dry cleaning business in Washington, D.C. seven years ago. Unfortunately, the have been dealing with a litigation nightmare for the past two years ever since a Judge sued them for $65 million because they lost a pair of his pants.
The Chungs are so disheartened that they are considering moving back to South Korea, their attorney Chris Manning said. “They’re out a lot of money, but more importantly, incredibly disenchanted with the system” Manning said. “This has destroyed their lives..
The lawsuit was filed by District of Columbia Administrative Hearing Judge Roy Pearson, who has been representing himself in the case. Judge Pearson did not return phone calls or e-mails as of Wednesday of last week from the Associated Press. According to court filings, the problem began in 2005 when Pearson first became a judge and took several suits for alterations to Custom Cleaners in Northeast Washington DC. A pair of pants from one suit was not ready when he requested it two days later, and appeared to be missing.
Judge Pearson asked the cleaners to pay the full price for the suit which was more than $1000. However, a week later the Chung’s said that the pants had been found and refused to pay. That is when Judge Pearson decided to file a suit.
According to the Chungs’ lawyer the cleaners has made three offers to settle with Judge Pearson. The first offer was for $3,000, then $4,600 and then $12,000. Judge Pearson has refused to settle. One of his claims for damages includes the cost to rent a car ($15,000) every weekend for 10 years to go to another dry cleaner since he no longer wants to patronize the Chungs’ dry cleaners. The bulk of Pearson’s $65 million claim, however, it derived from a strict interpretation of Washington DC’s consumer protection law which fines violators $1,500 per violation per day. According to court papers, Pearson added up 12 violations over 1200 days and multiplied by 3 defendants.
Much of Judge Pearson’s case rests on two signs that Custom Cleaners once had on its walls: “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Same Day Service”. Because Pearson is dissatisfied and because he didn’t get his pants back the same day he claims the signs amount to fraud. The case is set for trial on June 11, 2007.
The American Tort Association, which tries to police the kind of abusive lawsuits that hurt small businesses, has offered to buy Judge Pearson a suit of his choice in an attempt to help the Chungs resolve the matter.