Attorneys fees still climbing for Chungs

John O'Brien Jun. 25, 2007, 3:16pm


WASHINGTON, D.C. - A litigation nightmare ended in a dream ruling for Jin and Soo Chung. Now there's the matter of the bill.

The Chungs were awarded court costs and ordered to pay nothing by Washington D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff Monday, but the Korean couple who was sued for $54 million for misplacing a pair of pants still has a six-figure bill with attorney Chris Manning of Manning & Sossamon.

A possible appeal might push the tab even higher for the Chungs, who have considered moving back to South Korea.

"I think the likelihood of appeal is very high," Manning said. "Mr. Pearson has said as much on numerous occasions."

Roy Pearson's gripe with Custom Cleaners started in 2005 when it could not find a pair of pants belonging to one of the suits Pearson needed for his new job as an administrative law judge.

Pearson claimed the pants attempted to be given to him later were not the correct pair and alleged six violations of a D.C. consumer protection law. Bartnoff did not agree in a 23-page opinion issued Monday.

Manning said the litigation and its negative effects on the Chungs' business has created a bill of more than $100,000.

The case has attracted international media attention and was thought by many to be an example of a frivolous lawsuit, especially considering Pearson once turned down a $12,000 settlement. It was filed in 2005 and heard June 12-13.

Two fundraising websites have been created in support of the Chungs, including one started by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform.

The ILR will also co-host a cocktail reception July 24 with the American Tort Reform Association with proceeds going to the Chungs' defense fund.

"Businesses large and small across America every day must deal with extortionist plaintiffs' lawyers like Judge Pearson," ILR President Lisa Rickard said. "The collective outcome is not justice, but lost jobs, ruined businesses and billions of dollars in lost economic opportunities."

The ILR says the country's tort system cost small businesses $98 billion in 2005.

Manning, meanwhile, says he is working on a motion asking that Pearson have to pay attorneys fees, just as he had to in 2005 during his divorce proceedings. He was found to have caused unnecessary litigation and ordered to pay $12,000 to his ex-wife's attorneys.

"We will move for fees, but Judge Bartnoff would have to rule that the case was brought in bad faith," Manning said. "That's a pretty high standard. However, we believe it fits here.

"Any award of fees would be suspended pending appeal though, and then there's the issue of whether Mr. Pearson would actually be able to pay the bill."

Pearson was unemployed and had nearly maxed out two credit cards when he filed the suit, and currently does not own a car.

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