The $67 Million Pants

Is somebody getting taken to the cleaners?

A $10 dry cleaning bill for a pair of trousers has ballooned into a $67 million civil lawsuit.

Plaintiff Roy Pearson, a judge in Washington, D.C., says in court papers that he's been through the ringer over a lost pair of prized pants he wanted to wear on his first day on the bench.

He says in court papers that he has endured "mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort."

He says he was unable to wear that favorite suit on his first day of work.

He's suing for 10 years of weekend car rentals so he can transport his dry cleaning to another store.

The lawsuit is based in large part on Pearson's seemingly pained admission that he was taken in by the oldest and most insidious marketing tool in the dry cleaning industry arsenal.

"Satisfaction Guaranteed."

Pearson did not return numerous calls from ABC News for comment.

It's the kind of lawsuit that makes liability reform advocates' temples throb.

"People in America are now scared of each other," legal expert Philip Howard told ABC News' Law & Justice Unit. "That's why teachers won't put an arm around a crying child, and doctors order unnecessary tests, and ministers won't meet with parishioners. It's a distrust of justice and it's changing our culture."

The civil trial, set for June, has the scope of a John Grisham courtroom thriller and the societal importance of a traffic ticket.

Pearson plans to call 63 witnesses.

Defending themselves against the suit -- for two years running -- are Korean immigrants Jin and Soo Chung and their son, who own Custom Cleaners and two other dry cleaning shops in the Fort Lincoln section of Washington, D.C.

The ABC News Law & Justice Unit has calculated that for $67 million Pearson could buy 83,750 new pairs of pants at the $800 value he placed on the missing trousers in court documents.

Fort Lincoln neighbors are enjoying what they consider the comedy of it all.

"The whole city is aware of this lawsuit," said Bob King, who represents Fort Lincoln on the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. "Everybody's laughing about it."

Everybody except the Chungs, who have spent thousands of dollars defending themselves against Pearson's lawsuit.

"It's not humorous, not funny and nobody would have thought that something like this would have happened," Soo Chung told ABC News through an interpreter.

Her husband agreed.

"It's affecting us first of all financially, because of all the lawyers' fees," Jin Chung said. "For two years, we've been paying lawyer fees. … We've gotten bad credit as well, and secondly, it's been difficult mentally and physically because of the level of stress."

Later, Soo Chung broke down in tears.

"I would have never thought it would have dragged on this long," she told ABC News. "I don't want to live here anymore. It's been so difficult. I just want to go home, go back to Korea."

"I've been in the dry cleaning business for 14 years, but this has never ever happened before. If anything happened to our customers' clothing, we would always compensate them accordingly and fairly," Jin Chung said through a translator.

The problems date back to 2002.

Pearson says in court papers that he took a pair of pants into Custom Cleaners in Fort Lincoln that year, and the pants were lost.

So Jin and Soo Chung gave Pearson a $150 check for a new pair of pants.

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