$54 million pants fund-raiser eases Chungs' legal pain

Ann Knef Jul. 25, 2007, 5:34am

$54 million pants under guard

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The owners of a Washington, D.C. dry cleaning business got some relief at a legal defense fund-raiser Tuesday night as guests from around the country turned out to help their brethren.

More than $62,000 was raised to offset legal bills incurred by Jin and Soo Chung resulting from the $54 million lawsuit brought against them over an allegedly "missing" pair of pants. Contributors included large and small businesses and legal reform advocates.

"The Chungs epitomize the spirit of enterprise--building a small business, helping their neighbors, and living the American dream- until someone saw the chance to strike it rich playing the litigation lottery over a pair of temporarily misplaced slacks," said Lisa Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, one of the event co-hosts along with the American Tort Reform Association.

Washington, D.C. Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson had sued the Chungs in 2005, originally for $67 million, after they misplaced his pants. He alleged they violated a consumer protection law by not abiding by a "Satisfaction Guaranteed" sign.

The now infamous pants, neatly pressed and bagged, were on display at the fund-raiser under the careful watch of a hired security guard.

"Unfortunately, the Chungs are not alone in facing frivolous litigation," Rickard said. "Every day, all across the country, business owners large and small worry if they'll be next.

"The Chungs have incurred tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses as a result of this frivolous lawsuit, and they have lost countless nights of sleep to aggravation and worry. Although we can't give them back their sleepless nights, we have taken a big step toward whittling their legal bills down to size."

According to the Associated Press, the Chungs still owe around $100,000 in legal bills.

Rickard said pledges are still coming in.

She also said that three-quarters of all small business owners surveyed recently by Harris Interactive reported that they were worried about becoming the target of a frivolous or unfair lawsuit. Many of them said that they have raised prices or have held back from expanding their businesses because of it.

In addition to helping the Chungs, the event organizers hoped to call attention to the broken lawsuit system that allows an obviously frivolous lawsuit to proceed, according to the Chamber. Even though a D.C. trial court harshly dismissed the suit, the plaintiff is expected to appeal.

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