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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Destroying a business by lawsuit

Remember that ridiculous lawsuit from the administrative judge who wanted $67 million from a cleaners for losing his pants. Well, he became a laughingstock around the country and lost his suit. But the damage was done. Now the Korean couple who ran the cleaners have had to shut it down.
Roy Pearson, the D.C. administrative law judge whose $67 million lawsuit against his neighborhood dry cleaners turned into a worldwide lesson in how one obsessed person can hijack the American legal system, lost his case in court, but today delivered the crowning blow to the owners of Custom Cleaners:

Bowing to the emotional and financial strains of two years of litigation, Soo and Jin Chung today announced the closing of the dry cleaners that may or may not have lost a pair of Pearson's pants that he put in for a $10 alteration in 2005.

"They were just tired of the whole ordeal," the Chungs' daughter-in-law, Soo Choi, told me today. "A lot of people view this comically because the case is so outrageous, but my mother-in-law has gone down four dress sizes from this whole ordeal. They just want to put this in their past."

In addition to the heavy emotional toll, the lawsuit proved to be a big drag on revenues at Custom Cleaners, located on Bladensburg Road NE. When Pearson first started gathering material for his aggressive legal battle, he posted fliers on light poles all around the Fort Lincoln neighborhood, asking residents if they had been ripped off by Custom and announcing his own displeasure with the service there. Business declined significantly after that and never rebounded, said Choi and the Chungs' lawyer, Christopher Manning.

"You'd think the trial and all the publicity would have a good effect on business," Manning said, "but for a dry cleaner, it really doesn't, because your customers are from the immediate neighborhood."

Public support for the Chungs did come in strong as news coverage of Pearson's wild demands and the D.C. court's failure to nip the case in the bud spread throughout the globe. Both the tort reform lobby and the trial lawyers association denounced Pearson's abuse of the legal system--a rare case of cooperation between sworn enemies. And fundraisers for the Chungs collected enough money--more than $100,000--to cover the family's legal bills.

Pearson last month appealed the Superior Court decision rejecting his suit, but Manning said his firm will handle the appeal for the Chungs without charge.

The Chungs will now work exclusively at their original shop, Happy Cleaners, on Seventh Street NW, across from the D.C. Convention Center. Soo Chung was there this afternoon, mopping the floor, waiting for customers. For the first time in a very long time, she was able to smile about her work. "This is our first store, first job," she told me. "When we came to America, we worked here. Good job. Good store."
Bless her for her optimistic attitude after what has happened to the business that they had built up. There is something particularly obscene about how this jerk ruined their business all because of his arrogant self-love over one pair of pants.

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