Scrivener.net

Friday, March 18, 2005

Extortion via the Americans with Disabilities Act

Disabled-Access Lawsuits Plague Businesses

... Around the country, business owners, judges and politicians are complaining that employers are being hit with a spray of "drive-by" ADA lawsuits that they say are little more than shakedown attempts by lawyers hoping for a quick cash settlement.

Those who are covered under the ADA say the lawsuits are necessary to get business owners to make their buildings more accessible. Among other things, the 1990 federal law requires ramps, parking stalls and signs, and dictates the height of countertops, the placement of toilet grab bars and the width of doors.

But some judges have suggested that a large number of ADA lawsuits are frivolous actions filed by a small number of disabled people and their lawyers...

U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell of Orlando, Fla., noted in a ruling last year that Jorge Luis Rodriguez, a paraplegic, had filed some 200 ADA lawsuits in just a few years, most of them using the same attorney.

"The current ADA lawsuit binge is, therefore, essentially driven by economics — that is the economics of attorney's fees," Presnell wrote. He said Rodriguez's testimony left the impression that he is a "professional pawn in a scheme to bilk attorney's fees" from those being sued.

In December, a federal judge in Los Angeles said a man who filed hundreds of lawsuits accusing businesses of violating the ADA was running an extortion scam. The judge barred the plaintiff, Jarek Molski, from bringing any more lawsuits without court permission.

Molski, who has used a wheelchair since he was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident a decade ago, has filed 400 suits since 1998 against restaurants, wineries, bowling alleys, banks and other places. In most cases, the judge said, Molski demands $4,000 a day until the target of his suit is brought into compliance with ADA, then agrees to a cash settlement...

Eric Holland of the Justice Department's Disability Rights Division said the government takes every ADA complaint seriously and resolved 360 of them last year...
[AP]

Which is 40 less than Molski filed by himself...