The Lookout News of Santa Monica, Calif. reports on obstacles to the revitalization of the Pico Boulevard commercial district:
“Businesses on Pico have been very frustrated by code compliance regulations for years,” [Pico Improvement Organization chairman Robert] Kronovet said. “You have a business that might have a sign in the wrong place or a door that isn’t right and the city fines them to the point that they don’t want to stay.
“These are small businesses. They don’t have the money to fight it.”…
Proprietor Elvira Garcia [of Caribbean restaurant Cha Cha Chicken] says business has been terrific, but that the success has been hard-won.
“We wanted to renovate our bathroom areas to make it more handicap-accessible and it took us almost three years to get all the permits,” Garcia said.
“We kept giving all the paperwork they need, but it took forever. We needed the Pico Improvement Organization to plead our case.”
California has the nation’s most active entrepreneurial corps of ADA enforcers, roaming business districts to file mass complaints against small businesses over handicap accessibility which they then settle for cash.
James Farkus Cohan, who’s sued at least 161 businesses under California’s liberal version of the ADA as a disabled plaintiff, says he has end-stage emphysema, but a KABC investigation found him rather spry. Cohan’s other businesses, the station reports, include procurement of human organs for transplant. Lawmakers in Sacramento this year refused business pleas to tighten standards for filing the lucrative suits, which extract millions annually [via Lowering the Bar and Amy Alkon]
Democrats in Sacramento are unswayed by continuing reports that Unruh Act complaint mills are extracting millions from the state’s small businesses on accessibility claims, and throttle a bill that would require notice and a chance to fix problems before suing. [Legal Pad, The Recorder, CJAC] Opponents of the fix include the trial-lawyers’ lobby, Consumer Attorneys of California. Background here; the perennially doomed equivalent bill in the U.S. Congress is discussed here. I discussed the issue on the John Stossel show lastyear.
The New York Post profiles prolific ADA filer Zoltan Hirsch, who has targeted at least 87 businesses, and his lawyer, Bradley Weitz. “[Hirsch] targeted a pedicure station at the Red & White Spa in SoHo — even though he has no feet.”
According to Todd Roberson at CJAC, a federal court’s ruling in a 14-year dispute over street curbs and sidewalks in Riverside, California has headed off a potential “avalanche of lawsuits.” U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled the complainant in the case “had failed to demonstrate that Riverside as a whole is inaccessible to the disabled.”
Riverside’s City Attorney, Greg Priamos, was quoted in the Daily Journal saying the suit was “about money, not accessibility…The only hangup to a settlement earlier in the case was the amount of attorney’s fees. I’m offended by that.”
After questions are raised about the timing of her claimed visits, a serial ADA plaintiff — represented by a law firm we’ve had occasion to mention before, Schwartz Zweben & Associates — drops complaints against several restaurants and other small businesses in Pennsylvania [Sunbury Item]
Donner Lake Kitchen, a popular family-owned restaurant in rural Truckee, Calif. is closing its doors following a legal battle with attorney Scott Johnson, who is said to have filed “countless” complaints of lack of handicap accessibility at California businesses. The owner estimates that $20,000-$60,000 in repairs and upgrades would have been needed to bring the dining establishment into ADA compliance. [Sierra Sun via CJAC]
Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) has reintroduced the ADA Notification Act, which “would provide businesses accused of an ADA violation with a 90-day grace period to make necessary modifications.” That would, among other effects, cut down on some opportunistic suit-filing that is aimed at the generating of attorneys’ fee entitlements. It is not entirely clear what effect it would have in states (like California itself) where lawyers prefer to sue under state laws that are more pro-plaintiff than the ADA itself. [East County Magazine via CJAC]
“A San Diego lawyer has irritated business owners in the town of Redlands, Calif., by sending out letters on behalf of clients demanding $6,500 settlements for claimed violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and related state law.” [ABA Journal; attorney James Mason]
Much reaction in the comments at the San Francisco Chronicle to the Ninth Circuit’s “Chipotle Experience discriminates against the disabled” ruling. Earlier here. And Ted at PoL notes this significant passage rejected by the appeals court:
The [district] court found that Antoninetti had failed to show irreparable injury because he had not revisited either restaurant after Chipotle adopted its written policy and because his “purported desire to return to the [r]estaurants is neither concrete nor sincere or supported by the facts.” It also stated that Antoninetti’s “history as a plaintiff in accessibility litigation supports this Court’s finding that his purported desire to return to the [r]estaurants is not sincere. Since immigrating to the United States in 1991, Plaintiff has sued over twenty business entities for alleged accessibility violations, and, in all (but one) of those cases, he never returned to the establishment he sued after settling the case and obtaining a cash payment.”
More on ADA filing mills here. And I’ve now got a longer post up at Cato at Liberty comparing the policy problem of serial ADA complaints to that of patent trollery, mass filing of “citizen suits”, and the business model of recently formed copyright-holder RightHaven. More: Carl Horowitz, NLPC.
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