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ADA Lawsuit Abuse Event a Success!

ada collageThis week, LRANY co-hosted an event with the New York State Restaurant Association in New York City focusing on ADA Lawsuit Abuse. There is growing issue of serial litigants taking advantage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to force small businesses into a settlement. Often New York small businesses are sued by plaintiffs alleging their business is not ADA compliant, some plaintiffs have even sued 8 or 9 businesses in a single day. The goal of the ADA is to provide access to people with disabilities, not to profit trial lawyers.

Our event produced an industry expert panel, consisting of defense attorney – Joesph Lynett of Jackson Lewis, ADA building designer & consultant – John Salmen of Universal Designers & Consultants, Inc., and restaurant owner and ADA lawsuit victim – Jeremy Wladis of The Restaurant Group. The event brought together dozens of business owners and interested parties who received important and educational information on what the state of this issue is and how ti mitigate risk for their business.

We would like to thank our sponsors, panelist, and partners for making this successful event possible!

LRANY Video Series: Ridiculous Lawsuit of the Month, August 2014 – “Hell on Wheels” Strikes Again

This week, LRANY’s Phoebe Stonbely brings you the Most Ridiculous Lawsuit of the Month for August of 2014: “Hell on Wheels” Strikes Again.

Zoltan Hersch, a double amputee from Brooklyn was dubbed ‘hell on wheels’ by the New York Post after filing 87 federal lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2011. He returned this month to continue his suing spree, with a lawsuit against a New York City Ralph Lauren.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: ADA Lawsuits, They’re Real and They’re Not Spectacular

(Albany, NY) – The iconic restaurant featured in many Seinfeld episodes was recently sued for over $30,000 under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Today, the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York is warning that this case is just the beginning of a flood of ADA litigation targeting New York businesses, similar to the billion-dollar ADA lawsuit industry currently bilking thousands of California businesses.

“This drive-by serial litigation that we see with ADA lawsuit abuse is despicable, often forcing small businesses to close their doors,” said Tom Stebbins, Executive Director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.  Stebbins cited a recent case in Brooklyn where a personal injury lawyer sued a restaurant for a non-compliant bathroom, even though the restaurant had no bathroom at all. The lawyer could not even produce his client – evidence, says Stebbins, that these lawsuits are designed to benefit trial lawyers, not the person with a disability.

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If You Feed a Lawyer Once, They Keep Coming Back For More

By: Michael Seinberg

Yuba City, CA has just managed to get itself out of some legal trouble and set itself up for even more thanks to an unusual and likely very costly move. “Professional plaintiff” George Louie will receive a one-time payment from the city in order that he stop suing small business owners over alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Yes, you heard that right: a city will actually pay someone to stop filing lawsuits.

Yuba City small business owners have been plagued with lawsuits from Louie claiming trivial ADA violations, amounting to thousands of dollars in store upgrades and legal costs. “We’d probably have to close it down. We do not have the capital; we’re barely breaking even,” said Jayne Sawyer, owner of JJ’s Tools and Merchandise. Louie’s suits have already bankrupted a number of local businesses.

But business owners aren’t the only victims of Louie’s legal bullying. He recently sued the city itself over disability access at several intersections. Fixing the issues cost the city’s taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. “Mr. Louie has a reputation for filing numerous claims, and it’s problematic,” City Manager Steven Jeasen said.

In a desperate effort to stop Louie from bulldozing the entire city and filling his pot of gold, the city agreed to pay Louie $15,000 – from here on out he can no longer file ADA lawsuits within the Yuba City limits. He also agreed to drop any currently active lawsuits. What a guy! And what’s to stop another enterprising legal bully from moving right in and picking up where Louie left off? Or Louie simply moving on to the next CA city with threats of mounting ADA suits? Nothing!

That’s the problem. Yuba City got rid of one walking headache, but chances are they’ll end up with lots more. ADA laws, which are meant protect people with disabilities, have been widely abused by unscrupulous plaintiffs and lawyers as an endless cash machine. Lawmakers in California have tried for years to pass reforms  to stifle, stop, or stamp out lawsuit abuse, but have seen little progress in the face of opposition from the trial bar.

“We are definitely not here to be a bank for some of these advocates to continue to sue the city or local businesses,” said Economic Development Manager Darin Gale. “But in this case, we went through the process and it’s in the best financial interest of the city, and we don’t plan on doing it again.”

Their plans may change, because Yuba City just rang the dinner bell and you can bet there is no shortage of lawyers hungry for taxpayer money.

The Disability Money Machine

By Michael Seinberg

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was designed to provide equal access, opportunities, and jobs to our nation’s disabled citizens.  What the crafters likely did not intend, is that one of those jobs would be professional plaintiff. As The New York Times recently reported, many of our disabled citizens are being used by law firms to sue small businesses.   One individual was involved in 143 suits, sometimes as many as nine in a single day.

Like in California, a group of enterprising trial lawyers have created a thriving industry suing small businesses for even the slightest violations of  the ADA. The lawyers claim they are just hard working advocates for the disabled. But with the possibility of earning $6,000 in legal fees per case and virtually no cases ever being tried in court, it’s a little tough to swallow.

These cases have been a huge problem in California and Florida, and now New York is joining the club. The cases have been particularly widespread in New York City where old architecture and tight space adds to the problem. The real giveaway that this is about money is that in virtually every case, the business in question could be given 90 days fix whatever alleged problem exists – from lowering shelves and counters to improving ramps. In every case though, the suit is filed immediately and the business has no choice but to make the improvements AND pay hefty legal bills.

Further revealing that this issue is about money, not justice, is the fact that in many cases the plaintiffs do not even patronize the businesses they are suing. The attorneys develop a pool of disabled people in a given locale and then use them on a rotating basis each time a new suit is filed.

“All they want is money; they get the money, and they move on to the next target,” said Ming Hai, an attorney from Queens who has worked to defend businesses from these suits. “It has become a profession to go out and look for a little problem here and there,” added Hai.

And if that’s not enough, these cases clog up New York courts while taxpayers foot the bill. The end result is not improved conditions for the disabled, but a growing list of businesses that cannot or will not operate in New York.

Disabled serial plaintiff with end-stage emphysema caught on hike

 

Los Angeles man, James Farkus Cohan says he’s disabled with end-stage emphysema, requiring a wheelchair, walker and oxygen tank.  To date Cohan has sued at least 161 small businesses, claiming those businesses are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

ABC caught up with Cohan the other day after his daily hike up a steep hill in the Verdugos near his Sun Valley, CA home — without a wheelchair, walker or oxygen tank.  Asked for an explanation, Cohan tells reporter Marc Brown “why don’t you talk to my attorneys or doctors about all that?”

View the ABC Eye Witness News Investigation on this man and the small businesses he is terrorizing with ‘drive-by lawsuits’.