Customer Sues for $65 Million Over Pants
Friday, May 4, 2007; 9:21 AM
WASHINGTON -- A missing pair of pants has led to one big suit. A customer got so steamed when a dry cleaner lost his trousers that he sued for $65 million. Two years later, he is still pressing his suit.
The case has demoralized the South Korean immigrant owners of the mom-and-pop business and brought demands that the customer _ an administrative law judge in Washington _ be disbarred and removed from office for pursuing a frivolous and abusive claim.
Jin Nam Chung, Ki Chung and their son, Soo Chung, are considering moving back to Seoul, seven years after they opened their dry-cleaning business in the nation's capital, said their lawyer, Chris Manning.
"They're out a lot of money, but more importantly, incredibly disenchanted with the system," Manning said. "This has destroyed their lives."
The customer, Roy L. Pearson Jr., who has been representing himself, declined to comment.
According to court documents, the problem began in May 2005 when Pearson became a judge and brought several suits for alterations to Custom Cleaners in Washington. A pair of pants from one suit was missing when he requested it two days later.
Pearson asked the cleaners for the full price of the suit: more than $1,000.
But a week later, the Chungs said the pants had been found and refused to pay. Pearson said those were not his pants, and decided to take the Chungs to the cleaners and sue.
Manning said the cleaners have made three settlement offers to Pearson: $3,000, then $4,600, then $12,000.
But Pearson was not satisfied and expanded his calculations beyond one pair of pants. Because Pearson no longer wanted to use his neighborhood dry cleaner, he asked in his lawsuit for $15,000 _ the cost of renting a car every weekend for 10 years to go to another business.
Manning said Pearson somehow thinks he has the right to a dry cleaner within four blocks of his apartment.
The bulk of the $65 million demand comes from Pearson's strict interpretation of Washington consumer protection law, which imposes fines of $1,500 per violation, per day. Pearson counted 12 violations over 1,200 days, then multiplied that by three defendants.