By Samuel G. Dobre, Esq.
The need for a local online newspaper became dramatically evident last month when we got a call from the popular Sandwich Shoppe on Greenwich Avenue that they had been “served” with a nine page legal brief which explained in nearly undecipherable legal gobbledygook that they were not in compliance with the laws to make their shop easily accessible to a handicapped customer and that that customer was suing them but was open to a cash settlement along with, of course, “the payment of legal fees.”
We discovered that this is a classic bit of legal theft practiced by crooked lawyers and the nightmarish part is it is perfectly legal and can be more expensive using your own lawyer to fend off the legal looter or, God forbid, spending thousands to comply and deliver handicap accessibility. Yes, yes it is cheaper to pay the crooked lawyer.
What was so awful was we got a call and email from another restaurant hit by the same lawyer with virtually the same nine page brief. We learned they had hit all the restaurants on Greenwich Avenue up to Elephant and Castle. A call to our 6th Precinct Community affairs officer brought exquisite self-protective silence.
So, if you are a young crooked lawyer you might want to study the article below written by a very honest young lawyer at my request.
Oh, if you are a handicapped person you can get a fee of $500 for every brief served on your behalf.
Yes, I became outraged when I realized this legal lout was walking around the West Village dropping off these legal larcenies and I could not get anybody to do anything about it.
The only weapon I had was the pages of WestView.
(You see why we need your email address to send you a notice to spot and stop this crook from dropping off more legal larceny.)
Restaurants, bars, stores, and theaters throughout New York City continue to fight against sprees of federal lawsuits brought pursuant to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These ADA lawsuits raise claims that physical and webpage barriers discriminate against the disabled.
Many businesses hire an ADA consultant to work with an architect to focus solely on physical accessibilities, yet they still may be hit with a surprise ADA lawsuit. The ADA Accessibility Guidelines are complex. For example, the rules respecting bathrooms impose over 95 requirements. There also are requirements for entrances, parking, ramps, windows, signage, telephones, doors, stairs and many more elements and spaces throughout a business’s place of public accommodation. These requirements essentially encourage federal litigation, with thousands of lawsuits being filed in New York courts each year.
A major point of dispute: How much compensation should be awarded to a wheel-chair bound patron who cannot access a place of public accommodation such as a restaurant due to a staircase or entrance lacking an ADA compliant ramp or bathroom? Federal courts in New York have opined on this question. If a plaintiff has not established any specific damages other than alleging compensatory damages, courts in the Second Circuit have found an award of $1,000 to be appropriate. For example, in Shariff v. Beach 90th St. Realty Corp., the plaintiff was awarded $1,000 due to a failure to establish any specific damages other than “that he fe[lt] discriminated against.”
While the patron’s damages in most of these cases are small, the ADA creates an incentive for plaintiff’s lawyers to pursue these cases because the ADA permits the award of attorneys’ fees. The availability of attorneys’ fees, even for small violations, creates hydraulic pressure to settle these cases. This plaintiff-friendly law that rewards attorneys’ fees and costs enables single complainants to file dozens of ADA “cookie cutter” accessibility lawsuits against different stores and restaurants usually with representation by the same plaintiff’s attorney.
In an ADA case brought by a wheelchair-bound patron who alleged he was unable to access a Subway restaurant, Judge Sterling Johnson in the Eastern District of New York noted that “One such legal giant, Charles Hamilton Houston, famously said that ‘a lawyer is either a social engineer or he’s a parasite on society.’ The conduct of counsel is indicative of a parasite disguised as a social engineer. It must stop.”
While the intent of the ADA is very clear—to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in “places of public accommodation,”—Congress may not have effectively anticipated the influx of Title III lawsuits. The ADA should not be used as a weapon for exorbitant monetary benefit to plaintiffs’ bar through the creation of serial complainants at the expense of many businesses that are forced to shut down.
Every business that operates a place of public accommodation and/or a website is at risk of potential litigation and should seek experienced legal guidance to best avoid and protect against ADA lawsuits.
Contact Bond, Schoeneck and King’s Labor and Employment Attorneys Samuel G. Dobre, Esq., Associate at firstname.lastname@example.org or (646) 253-2320 and Gregory B. Reilly, Esq. at email@example.com or (646) 253-2330 with any questions or assistance.