Retailers, Restaurants, and other businesses need protection from rising Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Lawsuits. The deceptive practices of two plaintiff lawyers who filed American Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits targeting New York City restaurants and retailers over exaggerated disability claims have hopefully ended.
We understand that U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson Jr issued a stern warning recently., telling the pair that 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 too narrow aisles or entry ramps too steep. The problem was that the lawyers are believed to have targeted the businesses and 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. Even though much of the language in each lawsuit was so similar, 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 restaurants and other businesses must make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities. But these attorneys are less concerned with advocating for the disabled than getting rich.
These two made roughly $15,000 for each case, sometimes filing up to 10 daily. These cases were so similar as indistinguishable but for the copied-and-pasted names of the plaintiff and defendant. The pair are believed to have filed more than 200 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 filings, eight lawsuits were filed on behalf of a man who the lawyers said was an Irish citizen who used a wheelchair. Yet, the plaintiff never appeared at any court hearings, nor could the lawyers produce his phone number. 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 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 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 stopped short of penalizing the two.
Had these two doctors been scamming taxpayers in the form of Medicare fraud, they would be behind bars. Yet the principle is still the same.
From a business standpoint, it’s an apt warning that if you are not in ADA compliance, a lawyer is likely willing to make a case of it. Don’t delay 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.