Wed, Jun 27, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Pearson lost his pants, now loses US$54m lawsuit

AP , WASHINGTON

Jin Chung, left, and his wife Soo Chung work in their dry cleaning business on Monday in Washington. A judge ruled on Monday in favor of the firm, which was sued for US$54 million over a missing pair of pants. The owners of Custom Cleaners did not violate the city's consumer protection law by failing to live up to Roy Pearson's expectations of the ``Satisfaction Guaranteed'' sign once displayed in the store window, District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff ruled.

PHOTO: AP

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

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

A judge on Monday decided that Pearson was not entitled to a penny and in fact owes the Chung family, owners of Custom Cleaners in northeast Washington, about US$1,000 in clerical court costs.

The lawsuit filed by Pearson, an administrative law judge, has been mocked worldwide as a frivolous and outrageous legal action and cost the Chungs two years of litigation, sleepless nights, financial and emotional stress.

"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.

The Korean family knows what they will do if Pearson shows up at their door with his laundry again.

"If he wants to continue using our services, then, yes, he is welcome," co-owner Soo Chung said at a news conference on Monday to a mob of reporters from at least nine different countries.

Pearson -- dubbed "Fancy Pants" and "Pantsless Pearson" by the online world -- did not respond to a call and an e-mail seeking comment.

Pearson originally sought US$67 million from the Chungs. He claimed they lost a pair of trousers from a blue and burgundy suit two years ago, then tried to give him a pair of charcoal gray pants that he said were not his.

Pearson arrived at the amount by adding up years of alleged consumer protection law violations and almost US$2 million in common law fraud claims. He later focused his claims on signs in the shop, including "Satisfaction Guaranteed," which have since been removed.

Even after all the trouble and ridicule, the Chung family wishes no ill upon their nemesis. One night, Soo Chung's mother-in-law called from South Korea with the guidance of a proverb: "Don't let hate feed hate."

"I decided to listen to my mother-in-law," Soo Chung said. "We respect Mr. Pearson."

Chris Manning, the family's attorney, said a defense fund Web site for the Chungs has collected about US$35,000 -- a fraction of about US$100,000 in costs.

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