Tearful Testimony in $54 Million Pants Lawsuit

"Frivolous lawsuits like this one are an embarrassment to the profession,'' said attorney Eric Turkewitz, who writes a personal injury law blog.

"I see he has a claim for $500,000 in emotional damages. I don't doubt that he has some emotional suffering, but I don't think it's related to the pants. I suspect he'll be sanctioned."

From $10 to $67 Million for Pants

The trouble began over a $10.50 dry cleaning bill for a pair of prized pants in 2005. That figure ballooned to $67 million dollars, but in recently amended court filings, Pearson now said he is only seeking $54 million. Last week, his term on the bench reportedly expired. It's unclear whether it will be renewed.

The lawsuit is based in large part on Pearson's contention that he was taken in by the "Satisfaction Guaranteed'' sign hanging on the store's wall. Pearson said at one point in court filings, that he planned to call 63 witnesses.

Defending themselves against the suit -- for two years running -- are Korean immigrants Soo and Jin Chung and their son, who own Custom Cleaners and several other local dry cleaning shops.

The bad blood between customer and store dates back to 2002, when the first pair of pants was allegedly lost by the dry cleaners.

The Chungs gave Pearson a $150 check for a new pair of pants. Three years later, Pearson said he returned to Custom Cleaners and, like some real-life "Groundhog Day" nightmare, another pair of trousers went missing.

It was May 2005 and Pearson was about to begin his new job as an administrative judge. He said in court filings he wanted to wear a nice outfit to his first day of work. He said that he tried on five Hickey Freeman suits from his closet, but found them all to be "too tight," according to the Washington Post, which first reported the story. Pearson said he brought one pair in for alterations and they went missing -- gray trousers with what Pearson described in court papers as blue and red stripes on them.

First, Pearson demanded $1,150 for a new suit. Lawyers were hired, legal wrangling ensued and eventually the Chungs offered Pearson $3,000 in compensation. Then they offered him $4,600.

Finally, they offered $12,000 for the missing gray trousers with the red and blue stripes.

Pearson said no. With neither satisfaction nor his prized gray pants, Pearson upped the ante considerably.

The judge went to the law books. Citing the District of Columbia's consumer protection laws, he claims he is entitled to $1,500 per violation. Per day.

What follows is the beginning of thousands of pages of legal documents and correspondence that, two years later, have led to a massive civil lawsuit. According to court papers, Pearson believes he is entitled to $1,500 for each consumer protection law violation, each day during which the "Satisfaction Guaranteed" sign and another sign promising "Same Day Service" was up in the store -- more than 1,200 days.

And he's multiplying each violation by three because he's suing Jin and Soo Chung and their son. He also wants $500,000 in emotional damages and $542, 500 in legal fees, even though he is representing himself in court. He wants $15,000 for 10 years' worth of weekend car rentals. He said in court papers he needed the car to get his dry cleaning to a store outside his neighborhood. He is also seeking other fees.

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