Many people take their clothes to a dry cleaner and don't think much about what would happen if they get lost. But when high-end clothing, including a wedding dress, went missing from a local dry cleaner, former customers asked the Channel 4 I-Team to investigate.
For Natalie Hanlon, it was more than just a dress.
"My husband saw me in that. My dad walked me down the aisle in it," Hanlon said.
When her wedding dress went missing from Melrose Cleaners in Nashville, she sued the owners in court and won.
And she's not the only customer who sued, claiming the cleaner lost high-end clothing.
"They didn't have it. They didn't have it at all," said Norman Todd, who sued the cleaners after half of his Armani suit went missing from the cleaners.
"They are avoiding us. They are refusing to take our calls," Hanlon said.
Hanlon said she tried to pick up her dress several times before the 30-day window ended.
"I started getting nervous two months after they had it," Hanlon said.
So Hanlon enlisted the help of her mother to demand answers. Hanlon recorded a conversation in the front of the dry cleaner between her mother and the business owner, Benny Miles.
"I'm getting the impression - so you correct me if I'm wrong - that we [the dry cleaner] may have lost my daughter's wedding dress?" Hanlon's mother asked.
"Maybe," Miles said.
"Is that what we're looking at?" Hanlon's mother asks.
"Maybe," Miles said.
Hanlon then sued and received a judgment in her favor when Miles didn't show up for court.
"I feel like they should pay for what they've done," Hanlon said.
Todd sued as well, knowing that he got 50 percent off his Armani suit, and after dropping off the slacks at the cleaners, now he has 50 percent less of the suit.
"Unfortunately, I am without the slacks," Todd said.
Todd said that Benny Miles told him he didn't have insurance and couldn't afford to replace the lower half of the Armani suit. So Todd took him to court and won.
"It's not about the money. It's about the principle of it," Todd said.
Melrose Cleaners has an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau.
Miles told the Channel 4 I-Team over the phone that lots of dry cleaners lose clothing, but we pointed out most don't lose wedding dresses, and he hung up.
When the Channel 4 I-Team tracked him down at his business, he got inside his truck and drove away.
Hanlon said her court victory was hollow, because she has no idea whatever happened to the most treasured dress of her life.
"Obviously, you can't put a price on it," Hanlon said.
Even though both Hanlon and Todd won in general sessions court, they haven't received any money.
With a court judgment, it's just up to the plaintiffs to recover the losses, and Todd said he hasn't been able to identify Miles' bank to try and garnish his wages after two years of searching.
Bottom line: ask your dry cleaner if he or she carries insurance, and if they don't, ask what they do to compensate for lost clothing.
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