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July 23, 2007

U.S. Chamber Helps D.C. Dry Cleaner Pay Legal Bills

WASHINGTON, D.C.-Businesses large and small joined together with legal reform advocates to help Jin and Soo Chung, the owners of a Washington, DC-based dry cleaner, pay some of the legal bills resulting from the $54 million lawsuit brought against them over an allegedly “missing” pair of pants.

“The Chungs epitomize the spirit of enterprise-building a small business, helping their neighbors, and living the American dream-until someone saw the chance to strike it rich playing the litigation lottery over a pair of temporarily misplaced slacks,” said Lisa Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, one of the event co-hosts along with the American Tort Reform Association.

During her remarks, steps from the front lobby of the Chamber where “The Spirit of Enterprise” emblem hangs prominently, Rickard shared the stage with the now infamous trousers, which were displayed with an armed guard standing nearby since the pants remain as evidence in the ongoing case.

“Unfortunately, the Chungs are not alone in facing frivolous litigation. Every day, all across the country, business owners large and small worry if they’ll be next,” Rickard said. “The Chungs have incurred tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses as a result of this frivolous lawsuit, and they have lost countless nights of sleep to aggravation and worry. Although we can’t give them back their sleepless nights, we have taken a big step toward whittling their legal bills down to size.”

Rickard said that the Chung fundraising event has netted more than $62,000, with pledges still coming in. She also said that three-quarters of all small business owners surveyed recently by Harris Interactive reported that they were worried about becoming the target of a frivolous or unfair lawsuit. Many of them said that they have raised prices or have held back from expanding their businesses because of it.

In addition to helping the Chungs, the event organizers hoped to call attention to the broken lawsuit system that allows an obviously frivolous lawsuit to proceed, according to the Chamber. Even though a D.C. trial court harshly dismissed the suit, the plaintiff is expected to appeal.

The mission of the Institute for Legal Reform is to make America’s legal system simpler, fairer, and faster for everyone. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation, representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.

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