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Business Costs & Regulation

The Case of the $65-Million Pants

Dry cleaners Soo Chung and Jin Nam were sued by a lawyer over a pair of suit pants.

Editor's Note: The page was updated December 19, 2008

Soo Chung and husband Jin Nam, who moved to Washington, D.C., from Korea in 1992, owned Custom Cleaners and two other dry cleaners when they were sued by Roy Pearson over a pair of suit pants. Pearson, a lawyer, asked for $65 million for consumer violations (later reduced to $54 million) and punitive damages because the Chungs did not provide "satisfaction guaranteed" and the "same-day service" they promised. The judge ruled for the Chungs. Pearson is appealing.


Complete 2007 'My Story' Collection

What to Know About Your Dry Cleaner

When did you first meet Roy Pearson?
It was in May 2005. He had brought in two pairs of pants for alteration. One pair was ready and one wasn't, so we asked him to come back a few days later.

Were the pants ready when he came back?
Yes. But Mr. Pearson became angry and said they were not his pants. I tried to explain that the tickets and the waist size, which I had altered, matched. He kept denying it and said I was lying.


What did Pearson want from you?
He wanted more than $1,000 for the cost of a brand-new suit when the alteration cost $10.50. We said no. Then he filed the lawsuit.

Why do you think he asked for so much money?
I think it was his way of making money. It was a get-rich-quick type of scheme.

He also ran a campaign to hurt your business, didn't he?
To get neighborhood residents to support him, he put out fliers near the cleaners defaming us. He also came to our house and asked for computer records.

Donations covered your legal costs. Why did you sell the business?
Some people stopped using our cleaners because of the court case. It was very stressful for the more than two years the case dragged on. It affected us financially, and we couldn't take it anymore.

Are you angry?
It is unfair, and it should not happen to anyone else ever again. But I am grateful for the support we have received and am glad to know that there are good people out there. I want life to go back to normal.

-- Interview by Joan Goldwasser