Jin and Soo Chung came to the United States in search of the American dream. What they experienced was the nightmare of American lawsuit abuse.
While the Chungs may not be household names, most Americans are aware of the $54 million lawsuit over pants they temporarily misplaced. That lawsuit, which was laughable on its face, has had a very unfunny impact on their business and their lives, forcing them to close two of their three dry cleaning stores and causing years of anxiety and sleepless nights.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
The Chungs moved to Washington, D.C. from South Korea, where Mr. Chung worked in a charcoal factory, in 1992. Like many immigrants, they were drawn to America by the opportunities available to those willing to work hard and the promise of a good education and a better life for their children.
And work hard they did, opening one dry cleaning store which was soon followed by a second and a third. The stores were a family business, owned and operated by the Chungs along with their son Ki.
But then came the day Judge Roy Pearson complained they’d lost his pants. The Chungs tried to settle with him, eventually offering up to $12,000 (as well as his pants), but Pearson insisted on dragging them to court in a ridiculous claim for $54 million.
After more than two years, Pearson lost his initial lawsuit, but it unfortunately didn’t end there.
Losses at their Custom Cleaners store were too great to overcome, and the Chungs had to close it last October. In the meantime, despite magnanimously dropping their countersuit against Pearson for legal fees, he pressed on with his appeal and today the case remains alive in the District of Columbia court system.
Today the Chungs operate their first cleaning location, Happy Cleaners in downtown Washington, D.C.
”They’re out a lot of money, but more importantly, they’re incredibly disenchanted with the system,” said Chris Manning, their attorney. ”This has destroyed their lives.”