Retailers, Restaurants and other businesses need protection form a rising number of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Lawsuits. The deceptive practices of two plaintiff lawyers who file American Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits targeting New York City restaurants and retailers over exaggerated disability claims have hopefully come to an end.
We understand a stern warning was issued recently by U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson Jr., who told the pair such claims would no longer be tolerated.
The two have come to represent a growing number of lawyers who have taken restaurants and other businesses in American Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits, for things like having aisles that were too narrow or entry ramps that were too steep. The problem was that the lawyers are believed to have first targeted the businesses, and then found disabled clients willing to press forward with a case. The clients themselves hardly made any money at all. The attorneys, meanwhile, claimed outrageous sums of $400 to $500 an hour in fees from defendants. This was despite the fact that much of the language in each of the lawsuits were so alike that the judge called it virtually “boilerplate.”
There is a name for this type of practice, called an ADA mill, in which lawyers essentially churn out these claims one after another without bothering to do any real investigation or research. Federal law says that restaurants and other businesses need to make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities. But these attorneys are less concerned with advocating for the disabled than they are with getting rich.
These two were making roughly $15,000 for each case, sometimes filing up to 10 a day. These cases were so similar as to be indistinguishable but for the copied-and-pasted names of the plaintiff and defendant. The pair is believed to have filed more than 200 of these cases since 2009.
In one instance, they filed a violation for an improperly-outfitted bathroom in a sandwich shop, only for the judge to later learn the sandwich shop didn’t even have a bathroom.
In the most recent series of filings, eight lawsuits were filed on behalf of a man who the lawyers said was a wheelchair-bound Irish citizen. Yet, the plaintiff never appeared to any of the court hearings, nor could the lawyers produce a phone number for him. They eventually told the judge he had permanently relocated to Ireland, causing the judge to question whether the man ever existed in the first place.
These two haven’t been the only ones to to do this, but they were two of the most notorious. In a scathing opinion issued late last month, the Brooklyn federal judge noted that the two lacked any kind of expertise, were disingenuous “at best,” and had quite possibly broken the standards of professional conduct. The judge then took the unprecedented move of ordering the two to stop filing such lawsuits.
It’s a decisive victory for restaurants throughout New York City and beyond, though the judge did stop short of actually penalizing the two.
Had these two been doctors scamming taxpayers in a form of Medicare fraud, they would be behind bars. Yet the principle is still the same.
From a business standpoint, it’s apt warning that if you are not in ADA compliance, there is likely a lawyer out there willing to make a case of it. Don’t delay in seeking legal advice from an experienced ADA Defense lawyer when hit with American Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits.
The Wright Law Firm is a business law firm located in Midtown Manhattan. Call (212) 619-1500 for a confidential consultation.