Custom Cleaners Defense Fund Archive

 

This website was created to give witness to the case of Jin Nam and Soo Chung and to provide a platform where visitors could contribute to their defense fund.
The content below is from the site's 2007 archived pages and other sources.

This is such a wacky story that some creative mind should create a screen play from it. For Jin Nam and Soo Chung it was a traumatic experience. As a small business own of my own New York City oriental rug care company I can totally understand how chilling it can be when a customer is unsatisfied with your work and decides to sue, even if you bend over backwards to try to rectify the situation. Dealing with antique oriental carpets, particularly when they are worn and dirty can always be challenging. And when you get a frantic call regarding a carpet that has been stained, it takes a great deal of experience and knowledge to determine if it can be cleaned. Fortunately my brother and are are very professional with years of experience. However, inevitably a situation occurs when a customer is really disgruntled with the result. Fortunately we have never had some vexed customer sue us. We have always managed to find a satisfactory solution. Nevertheless, when you read stories like this one, it makes you realize how easily things can go sideways.

 

Custom Cleaners Defense Fund

Welcome!

Jin Nam and Soo Chung thank you very much for your interest in their case. They are deeply touched by your kindness and support.

In response to the numerous calls and e-mails from people offering assistance, this fund has been created to help with their defense costs.

If you wish to contribute to this fund, please click on the PayPal link below. PayPal will allow you to contribute by credit card or debit card.

The funds contributed through this website will be administered on behalf of the Chungs by a regional Washington D.C. certified public accounting firm.

Donate to the Chungs
 

Soo Chung and Jin Nam Chung at Custom Cleaners

Send a message to the Chungs

Case Information

To learn more about the facts of the case, visit this page created by the Chungs' attorneys, Manning & Sossamon law firm.

Contact

For any inquiries or comments regarding Custom Cleaners, the Chungs or the case, contact their attorneys at:

Manning & Sossamon
1532 Sixteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 387-2228 (voice)
(202) 387-2229 (fax)
ChungDefense@manning-sossamon.com
www.manning-sossamon.com

 

 

CASE BACKGROUND

 

  • TRIAL UPDATE: Judge Judith Bartnoff ruled resoundingly in favor of the Chungs and Custom Cleaners on June 25, 2007 with a full defense verdict and an award of court costs to the Chungs. The Chungs are very pleased with Judge Bartnoff's decision. 
  • Importantly, there is a distinction between an award of court costs versus an award of attorney's fees. Court costs relate only to the hard costs of the litigation, such as filing fees and transcript charges, and not attorney's fees.
  • Through her verdict, Judge Bartnoff has spoken loudly in suggesting that, while consumers should be protected, abusive lawsuits like this will not be tolerated. Judge Bartnoff has chosen common sense and reasonableness over irrationality and unbridled venom. Simply put, Judge Bartnoff got it right.
  • Unfortunately, however, this emotionally and financially burdensome ordeal is likely not over for the Chungs-we fully expect Mr. Pearson to file a Notice of Appeal.

 

DONATE TO THE CHUNGS: The Chungs have created a fund to help ease the financial burden caused by Mr Pearson’s pursuit of this case. To donate, please visit www.customcleanersdefensefund.com.

  • Pearson v. Chung is a District of Columbia civil lawsuit brought by Roy L. Pearson that names three defendants: Jin Chung, Soo Chung and their son, Ki Chung. Mr. Pearson, an attorney and DC Administrative Law Judge, represents himself. The Chungs are represented by Christopher Manning of Manning & Sossamon law firm.
  • The Chungs immigrated to the United States from South Korea in 1992. In 2000, they purchased Custom Cleaners, a dry cleaning and alterations service located in Washington, DC.
  • Mr. Pearson alleges that on May 3, 2005 he left a pair of pants with the Chungs to be altered by May 5, 2005. The pants he submitted were grey in color and were unique in that they had a succession of three belt loops very close together on each side of the front waistband of the pants.
  • The Chungs offered the altered grey pants to Mr. Pearson a few days after the May 5, 2005 deadline.
  • Mr. Pearson refused to accept the pants the Chungs offered even though (1) the pants had the same unique belt loop configuration as the pants he originally submitted; (2) the pants' measurements were identical to measurements he requested for the alteration; and, (3) the tag number on the pants matched his receipt.
  • When the Chungs would not meet his initial demand of over $1,000 as compensation for his pants, Mr. Pearson filed a lawsuit in the District of Columbia Superior Court.
  • Mr. Pearson alleges a variety of claims in this lawsuit, including: (1) that the Chungs misled him, in that they lost his pants but tried to return to him a pair of pants that did not belong to him; and, (2) that certain signs in Custom Cleaners reading "Satisfaction Guaranteed", "Same Day Service" and "All Work Done on Premises" were misleading.
  • The Chungs assert that the pants they offered to Mr. Pearson belong to him. Furthermore, the Chungs deny that their signs were misleading to a reasonable person.
  • The Chungs requested that this matter be dismissed. However, the judge decided that this case should go to trial because, among other things, there are two factual issues in dispute: (1) whether the grey pants offered to Mr. Pearson do, in fact, belong to him; and, (2) whether the signage that hung in Custom Cleaners was misleading.
  • In the March 2007 formal Pretrial Statement, Mr. Pearson claimed $67,292,000 in damages. Just prior to trial, Mr. Pearson reduced his claim to over $54,000,000.
  • The Chungs assert that they owe Mr. Pearson the grey pants they still have available for him and nothing else.
  • The Chungs made three settlement offers-$3,000, $4,600 and $12,000. Importantly, these settlement offers were strategically made in a way so that, if Mr. Pearson does not recover more than these amounts at trial, then he will have to pay the Chungs' costs for this case.

 

Background Story

Washington Post

Judge Sues Cleaner for $65M Over Pants

By LUBNA TAKRURI
The Associated Press 
Thursday, May 3, 2007; 6:55 AM

WASHINGTON -- The Chungs, immigrants from South Korea, realized their American dream when they opened their dry-cleaning business seven years ago in the nation's capital. For the past two years, however, they've been dealing with the nightmare of litigation: a $65 million lawsuit over a pair of missing pants.

Jin Nam Chung, Ki Chung and their son, Soo Chung, are so disheartened that they're considering moving back to Seoul, said their attorney, Chris Manning, who spoke on their behalf.

"They're out a lot of money, but more importantly, incredibly disenchanted with the system," Manning said. "This has destroyed their lives."

The lawsuit was filed by a District of Columbia administrative hearings judge, Roy Pearson, who has been representing himself in the case.

Pearson did not return phone calls and e-mails Wednesday from The Associated Press requesting comment

"They're out a lot of money, but more importantly, incredibly disenchanted with the system," Manning said. "This has destroyed their lives."

The lawsuit was filed by a District of Columbia administrative hearings judge, Roy Pearson, who has been representing himself in the case.

Pearson did not return phone calls and e-mails Wednesday from The Associated Press requesting comment.

According to court documents, the problem began in May 2005 when Pearson became a judge and brought several suits for alteration to Custom Cleaners in Northeast Washington, a place he patronized regularly despite previous disagreements with the Chungs. A pair of pants from one suit was not ready when he requested it two days later, and was deemed to be missing.

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. That's when Pearson decided to sue.

Manning said the cleaners made three settlement offers to Pearson. First they offered $3,000, then $4,600, then $12,000. But Pearson wasn't satisfied and expanded his calculations beyond one pair of pants.

Because Pearson no longer wanted to use his neighborhood dry cleaner, part of his lawsuit calls for $15,000 _ the price to rent a car every weekend for 10 years to go to another business.

"He's somehow purporting that he has a constitutional right to a dry cleaner within four blocks of his apartment," Manning said.

But the bulk of the $65 million comes from Pearson's strict interpretation of D.C.'s consumer protection law, which fines violators $1,500 per violation, per day. According to court papers, Pearson added up 12 violations over 1,200 days, and then multiplied that by three defendants.

Much of Pearson's case rests on two signs that Custom Cleaners once had on its walls: "Satisfaction Guaranteed" and "Same Day Service."

Based on Pearson's dissatisfaction and the delay in getting back the pants, he claims the signs amount to fraud.

Pearson has appointed himself to represent all customers affected by such signs, though D.C. Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz, who will hear the June 11 trial, has said that this is a case about one plaintiff, and one pair of pants.

Sherman Joyce, president of the American Tort Association, has written a letter to the group of men who will decide this week whether to renew Pearson's 10-year appointment. Joyce is asking them to reconsider.

Chief Administrative Judge Tyrone Butler had no comment regarding Pearson's reappointment.

The association, which tries to police the kind of abusive lawsuits that hurt small businesses, also has offered to buy Pearson the suit of his choice.

And former National Labors Relations Board chief administrative law judge Melvin Welles wrote to The Washington Post to urge "any bar to which Mr. Pearson belongs to immediately disbar him and the District to remove him from his position as an administrative law judge."

"There has been a significant groundswell of support for the Chungs," said Manning, adding that plans for a defense fund Web site are in the works.

To the Chungs and their attorney, one of the most frustrating aspects of the case is their claim that Pearson's gray pants were found a week after Pearson dropped them off in 2005. They've been hanging in Manning's office for more than a year.

Pearson claims in court documents that his pants had blue and red pinstripes.

"They match his inseam measurements. The ticket on the pants match his receipt," Manning said.

++++

Dry Cleaner Wins Missing Pants Case

By LUBNA TAKRURI
The Associated Press 
Monday, June 25, 2007; 11:00 PM

WASHINGTON -- No pair of pants is worth $54 million. A judge rejected a lawsuit Monday that sought that amount by taking a dry cleaner's promise of "Satisfaction Guaranteed" to its most litigious extreme.

Roy L. Pearson became a worldwide symbol of legal abuse by seeking jackpot justice from a simple complaint that a neighborhood dry cleaners lost the pants from a suit and tried to give him a pair that were not his.

His claim, reduced from $67 million, was based on a strict interpretation of the city's consumer protection law _ which imposes fines of $1,500 per violation _ as well as damages for inconvenience, mental anguish and attorney's fees for representing himself.

But District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff ruled that the owners of Custom Cleaners did not violate the consumer protection law by failing to live up to Pearson's expectations of the "Satisfaction Guaranteed" sign once displayed in the store.

"A reasonable consumer would not interpret 'Satisfaction Guaranteed' to mean that a merchant is required to satisfy a customer's unreasonable demands," the judge wrote.

Bartnoff wrote that Pearson, an administrative law judge, also failed to prove that the pants the dry cleaner tried to return were not the pants he took in.

Bartnoff ordered Pearson to pay clerical court costs of about $1,000 to defendants Soo Chung, Jin Nam Chung and Ki Y. Chung. A motion to recover the Chungs' tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees will be considered later.

"Judge Bartnoff has spoken loudly in suggesting that, while consumers should be protected, abusive lawsuits like this will not be tolerated," the Chungs' attorney, Chris Manning, said in a statement. "Judge Bartnoff has chosen common sense and reasonableness over irrationality and unbridled venom."

Speaking to reporters outside their dry cleaners, the Chungs said they held no hard feelings toward Pearson. "If he wants to continue using our services, then, yes, he is welcome," Soo Chung, a Korean immigrant, said through a translator.

Pearson, who came to court during the two-day trial earlier this month carrying the jacket he said went with the missing pants, did not respond to a call and an e-mail seeking comment.

The case began in 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 sue.

Over the course of the litigation, the Chungs said they made three settlement offers _ $3,000, then $4,600, then $12,000 _ all rejected.

The case garnered international attention and renewed calls for litigation reform.

"This case was giving American justice a black eye around the world, and it was all the more upsetting because it was a judge and lawyer who was bringing the suit," said Paul Rothstein, a Georgetown University law professor.

Rothstein said Monday's ruling "restores one's confidence in the legal system."

Calls have come from around the world for Pearson to lose his position on the bench and be disbarred. The city's chief administrative law judge is still considering Pearson's 10-year reappointment.

+++

District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

 

Roy L. PEARSON, Jr., Appellant, v. Soo CHUNG, et al., Appellees.

No. 07-CV-872.

    Decided: December 18, 2008

Before KRAMER and THOMPSON, Associate Judges, and FARRELL, Associate Judge, Retired.Roy L. Pearson, Jr., pro se. Christopher C.S. Manning for appellees.

Appellant, Roy Pearson, who is an attorney, sued the Chungs, the owners of a dry cleaner called Custom Cleaners, alleging common law fraud and violations of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (“CPPA”).   His lawsuit was based upon signs that the Chungs displayed in their store stating “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Same Day Service.”   At the conclusion of a bench trial, Judge Judith Bartnoff, in a well-reasoned opinion, found for the Chungs on all claims.   Pearson argues that the trial court misapplied the law and erred in denying his motion for a jury trial.   We affirm the trial court's decision.

 

 

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