Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | $54 million pants suit appeal gets rejected: Korean dry cleaners may get their lives back
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$54 million pants suit appeal gets rejected: Korean dry cleaners may get their lives back

Court sketch of DC Administrative Judge Roy Pearson Jr. during his $54 million lawsuit against Korean dry cleaners whom he accused of losing his pants.

It’s been over three years, but the legal ordeal of a Korean couple in Washington DC may finally be over. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals turned down an appeal by former DC Administrative Judge Roy Pearson Jr., who came to symbolize frivolous lawsuits when he sued Jin and Soo Chung, owners of Custom Cleaners, for an astounding $54 million.

Pearson claimed that the Chungs lost a pair of his pants when he brought them in for alterations, and that signs in the shop promising “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Same Day Service” meant he could take the couple to court under consumer protection laws, which allowed him thousands of dollars for every day since his loss. The Chungs claimed they gave him his trousers but Pearson said the couple substituted a cheaper pair of pants.

The public opinion sided with the Chungs, because of the amount of damages Pearson asked for. Apparently, so the the courts. The Chungs may have lost his pants, but Pearson lost his suit.

He took his case to the District Court of Appeals, which turned him down today. The Chungs’ attorney, whose firm took on the case pro bono, said the appeals court “ruled resoundingly in favor of the Chung family and denied Mr. Roy Pearson’s appeal of the case completely.”

Ironically, Pearson had just been appointed to his seat as an Administrative Judge for Washington DC when he took his clothes to Custom Dry Cleaners, which was in his neighborhood. When the publicity over his lawsuit hit the national media (and the international media, which ridiculed the suit as an example of the U.S. justice system’s problems), he taken off the bench in May, 2007.

He now has a lawsuit pending so he can get his position back.

The Chungs now have only one of the three locations they owned back in 2005 when Pearson first filed his lawsuit. Last year, they dropped their request to force Pearson to pay for their own legal bills, which topped $100,000, in an effort to get him to drop his appeal. He didn’t. He can still appeal today ruling, to the entire panel of DC Appeals Court judges, or even to the Supreme Court.

Let’s hope he drops his case once and for all, and the Chungs can start again with a clean shirt, er, slate.