ATLANTA — Drycleaners Byung Ho Cheoun, Shiraz Kurani and Hae Sook Chung have filed a federal lawsuit seeking class-action status on behalf of more than 600 Korean-American and other drycleaners, alleging natural gas provider Infinite Energy defrauded the businesses through exorbitant prices locked into three-year contracts signed following Hurricane Katrina.
The lawsuit, Cheoun et al v. Infinite Energy Inc., was filed in United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division. Cheoun, Kurani and Chung asked that the case be granted class action status for members of the Korean Cleaners’ Association of Atlanta (KCAA), among others, as all drycleaners in Atlanta are dependant on the use of natural gas for their business.
The plaintiffs contend that the Florida-based energy giant fraudulently coerced customers into long-term contracts immediately after Hurricane Katrina, which disrupted the drilling, refining and transportation of natural gas and resulted in a short-term spike in its cost. Infinite Energy is still trying to hold them to those rates three years after natural gas prices restabilized, the suit charges.
“Normally, I defend class actions, but I decided to help the drycleaning business community recover their losses in what is a clear case of wrongdoing,” says the plaintiffs’ attorney, David Pardue of the Atlanta law firm Hartman, Simons, Spielman & Wood LLP. “Infinite engaged in deliberate misinformation and scare tactics to lock the KCAA into high, fixed rates when it was clear that ‘the Katrina effect’ on gas prices was temporary. It is determined to reap illegal profits and to extract every penny possible from customers it has deceived, cheated and misled.”
According to the complaint, the company has tried to hold all members of the KCAA to the higher rates despite the plaintiffs’ formal attempts to renegotiate the contract and despite the fact that many members never agreed to the new rate. The suit seeks more than $5 million in damages, as well as punitive damages and a permanent injunction.
The complaint seeks damages for all customers that were billed inflated prices under the post-Katrina contract.