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July 25, 2007

$54 Million Pants Lawsuit Reflects Both Bad and Good in America

Last month, Judge Judith Bartnoff ruled that Washington, D.C. administrative law Judge Roy Pearson would not get $54 million for his allegedly lost pants. The decision surprised no one except maybe Judge Pearson, who is expected to appeal the verdict.

But the “victory” for Jin, Soo, and Ki Chung, owners of Custom Cleaners, has cost them at least $83,000 in legal fees and counting. The case has drained their life savings and left them with a large debt.

I’m thrilled to say that the Institute for Legal Reform and the American Tort Reform Association co-hosted a fundraiser on their behalf which to date has collected more than $64,000 to help offset their legal defense costs.

We did this because it was the right thing to do, and because their story needs to be told. It represents both the best and the worst of our country.

While a case involving a sitting judge, suit pants, and $54 million is rare, small businesses like Custom Cleaners are the target of frivolous lawsuits every day in America. A recent survey of small business owners shows more than 75 percent are concerned about lawsuits; another survey shows the price tag for lawsuits to small businesses is $98 billion, up 13 percent in three years.

The Chungs also represent the best of our country – a hard-working family who embodies the values of the US Chamber’s slogan Spirit of Enterprise. They left the charcoal factories of South Korea looking for the American dream, and worked hard to achieve it.

What’s also heartening are the hundreds of Americans who have donated to the legal defense fund. And the fundraising is ongoing as Judge Pearson pursues his appeal against the Chungs.

It is my hope that the good that comes out of this case is a greater awareness of the extent and the cost of lawsuit abuse, leading to reform of our broken system. If that happens, the Chungs’ personal nightmare will not have been entirely in vain.

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