- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2007

A former D.C. administrative law judge who is suing a dry cleaner for $54 million testified yesterday that he thinks a merchant should pay any customer who demands compensation, even if the merchant thinks the customer is lying.

Roy L. Pearson, who sued the immigrant-owned business after he said it lost his pants, argues that he is acting in the interest of all D.C. residents against poor business practices.

Defense attorneys call his claim “outlandish.”

Under cross-examination yesterday, Mr. Pearson said the D.C. Consumer Protection Act, under which he is suing Custom Cleaners, should grant a customer whatever he or she wants if there is a “Satisfaction Guaranteed” sign.

Defense attorney Chris Manning asked Mr. Pearson repeatedly whether he would pay any customer who asked for compensation if he were a merchant.

Mr. Pearson kept responding with convoluted legal language, and each time Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff instructed him to answer the question. Finally, he said, “Yes.”

“So does that make sense for you, instead of going down the street to another dry cleaner, to sue a business for $67 million?” Mr. Manning asked.

Mr. Pearson said it did.

“Does that make any sense at all?” Mr. Manning asked, to laughter from the courtroom.

Mr. Pearson, 57, originally sued Custom Cleaners for $65 million by adding up violations under the Consumer Protection Act and almost $2 million in common-law claims.

He no longer is seeking damages related to the pants, instead focusing his claims on two signs in the shop that have since been removed.

Judge Bartnoff ruled yesterday that the “Same Day Service” sign was no longer to be considered, leaving “Satisfaction Guaranteed” the only issue in question.

Mr. Pearson contends that Jin, Soo and Ki Chung, owners of the small business, committed fraud and misled consumers because they put up the signs but did not meet the satisfaction of several customers, including him.

Mr. Manning portrayed Mr. Pearson as a bitter man with financial troubles stemming from a recent divorce who is taking out his anger on a hardworking family.

Mr. Manning went into the details of Mr. Pearson’s divorce yesterday. Under questioning, Mr. Pearson confirmed he had only $1,000 to $2,000 to his name when his problems with the dry cleaners started.

Mr. Pearson said he did not have a job at the time and was collecting unemployment benefits.

Mr. Pearson says his problems with Custom Cleaners began in May 2005, when he brought in several suits for alterations.

A pair of pants from a blue and maroon suit was missing when he requested it two days later.

The Chungs say they found the pants soon afterward and tried to give them to Mr. Pearson, but Mr. Pearson insisted they were not his. The charcoal-gray, cuffed pants are now evidence.

“I haven’t worn pants with cuffs since the 1970s,” Mr. Pearson said yesterday.

He also submitted into evidence a photograph of every pair of pants in his home to show that he does not like pants with cuffs.

On Tuesday, Mr. Pearson choked up while describing how Soo Chung told him the cuffed pants were his and had to interrupt his testimony. He left the courtroom with tears streaming down his face.

Mr. Manning said the pants match Mr. Pearson’s inseam measurement, and the tag on the pants matches his claim check.

Mr. Pearson said yesterday that he wants only $2 million in damages for himself — for his mental anguish and inconvenience — plus $500,000 in attorney’s fees for representing himself. Anything more that Judge Bartnoff might award him would go into a fund “to educate people of their rights under the Consumer Protection Act,” he said.

The courtroom was standing-room only for both days of the trial, with many Korean and international press organizations covering the testimony.

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