- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The owners of a dry cleaning business who were sued for $54 million over a missing pair of pants have closed and sold the shop involved in the dispute, their attorney said yesterday.

The South Korean immigrants are citing a loss of revenue and the emotional strain of defending the lawsuit.

“This is a truly tragic example of how devastating frivolous litigation can be to the American people and to small businesses,” said their attorney, Chris Manning.

Soo Chung and her husband, Jin Nam Chung, faced more than two years of litigation after a former customer at Custom Cleaners reported they had lost a pair of his pants, then sued for $67 million under the District’s strict consumer-protection act.

Plaintiff Roy L. Pearson, a local administrative law judge, later lowered his demand to $54 million. He said the “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Same Day Service” signs that once hung in the shop were misleading and fraudulent.

The case went to trial in June, and a D.C. Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the Chungs, awarding Mr. Pearson nothing. Mr. Pearson is still pursuing his appeal of the verdict.

The Chungs incurred more than $100,000 in legal expenses, which were eventually paid with help from fundraisers and donations.

When the pants conflict began in 2005, Mr. Pearson plastered the cleaners’ neighborhood with signs charging unfair business practices and encouraging patrons to avoid the store. Even after the trial ended favorably, Mr. Manning said, the Chungs lost customers and revenue. The financial strain and the emotional toll of returning every day to the store led to the closure, Mr. Manning said.

Mr. Pearson did not respond to an e-mail from the Associated Press seeking comment.

The Chungs have now closed two of their three businesses since the lawsuit began, Mr. Manning said. The couple will devote their energy to their remaining business, Happy Cleaners in Northwest Washington.

“It’s sad, but what they’re trying to do is move on and return to their private lives,” Mr. Manning said. The family is hoping that the success of Happy Cleaners eventually will help them rebuild their businesses, he said.

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