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February 8th, 2006 Carson K. Smith | Rogue of the Week
 

Alice Loretta Gatten

     
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Thanks to this week's Rogue, an immigrant couple's business helping others' wedding romances come true is in ruins this Valentine's Day.

Last year, Mircha Strugar, 23, and his wife, Liliya, 18, opened a wedding-dress shop named Gorgeous Gowns at 14802 SE Powell Blvd. Both halves of the Ukrainian couple were optimistic that their business supplying sequined-style dresses from Europe would flourish.

But that hope crash-landed when Alice Loretta Gatten, 61, smashed her 1994 Mazda Navajo into Gorgeous Gowns at about 6:40 pm on Nov. 29. Police arrested Gatten at the scene of the crash, which is two blocks from her house, and charged her with driving under the influence of intoxicants, with a blood-alcohol level of .20 percent—two and a half times the legal limit.

According to a lawsuit filed by the Strugars against Gatten in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Jan. 27, the crash "destroyed" the wedding-gown business.

Among the damages: a ruptured water line that ruined gowns for customers, as well as the store's business computer, which was stolen by a looter who entered through the hole created by the crash. The Dell computer also contained digital pictures of the Strugars' own wedding and honeymoon in Hawaii.

The lawsuit, which seeks $88,754 from Gatten, says Gatten "knew or reasonably should have known that driving while intoxicated could cause defendant to crash into a building."

"Everything was on that computer," says Mircha, now doing construction work while his wife stays home, too distraught to do much else.

Meanwhile, Gatten's husband, Gerald, told the Rogue desk that "the [wedding-gown] business wasn't doing well" anyway. He says the Strugars are exploiting their lawsuit to get money for a business Gerald Gatten knew was failing because he could see it from his nearby home.

If the Strugars win the lawsuit, Mircha says they'll use the money to reopen the business.

 
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