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Thread: Disabilities Act Used by Lawyers in Flood of Suits

  1. #1

    Disabilities Act Used by Lawyers in Flood of Suits

    Front page article in today's New York Times.

    April 16, 2012
    Disabilities Act Used by Lawyers in Flood of Suits

    By MOSI SECRET

    A small cadre of lawyers, some from out of state, are using New York City’s age and architectural quirkiness as the foundation for a flood of lawsuits citing violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

    The lawyers are generally not acting on existing complaints from people with disabilities. Instead, they identify local businesses, like bagel shops and delis, that are not in compliance with the law, and then aggressively recruit plaintiffs from advocacy groups for people with disabilities.

    The plaintiffs typically collect $500 for each suit, and each plaintiff can be used several times over. The lawyers, meanwhile, make several thousands of dollars, because the civil rights law entitles them to legal fees from the noncompliant businesses.

    The practice has set off a debate about whether the lawsuits are a laudable effort, because they force businesses to make physical improvements to comply with the disabilities act, or simply a form of ambulance-chasing, with no one actually having been injured.

    The suits may claim a host of problems: at a deli grocery in West Harlem, an overly steep ramp without guardrails, high shelves and a narrowing pathway near the refrigerators; at a yogurt shop in the theater district, no ramp, no bathroom doorknob that can be opened with a closed fist and exposed hot water drains under the bathroom sink; at a flower shop on the Upper East Side, no ramp and shelves that are too high.

    All of those suits were filed by Ben-Zion Bradley Weitz, a lawyer based in Florida, who has a regular group of people with disabilities from whom he selects plaintiffs. One of them, Todd Kreisler, a man in a wheelchair who lives on the East Side of Manhattan, sued 19 businesses over 16 months — a Chinese restaurant, a liquor store and a sandwich shop among them.

    The results of the suits were almost immediate: workers grabbed their hammers, installing new ramps, lowering counters and shelves and making businesses more accessible to people with disabilities. And as a product of the litigation, the businesses had to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees to Mr. Weitz and his associates.

    Mr. Weitz is leading the charge into New York’s courtrooms. Since October 2009, he has sued almost 200 businesses in the state, mostly in Federal District Court in Manhattan. He has eight years of experience filing these suits in Florida, where his practice does not seem to be lagging. Two weeks ago, he brought claims against four Tampa businesses — a strip mall, a convenience store, a bar and a print shop.
    Another lawyer with a thriving practice, Martin J. Coleman of Long Island, has filed almost 130 cases in the Eastern District of New York. Mr. Coleman said he was aware the lawsuits had drawn criticism.

    “Folks go out there and say, ‘I’m mad at the plaintiffs,’ and ‘I see the same names,’ and ‘Let’s go bash the plaintiffs’ attorneys,’ “ Mr. Coleman said. “I don’t mind that, but the law has been there, don’t kid yourself.”

    “As a private attorney, every lawsuit that I file is to make money, because that’s how I make a living,” he added. “And in that regard, I’m no different than any other private attorney.”

    Few, if any, cases have gone to trial, according to a review of electronic court records; the defendants usually agree to settle, often in less than six months, closing the cases at a breakneck pace for federal court.

    Suit by suit, the lawyers are forcing this tough and intensely pedestrian city, so resistant to change, to meet standards for accessibility that are more than 20 years old. In doing so, they are part of a nationwide trend: In the last year, 3,000 similar suits, including more than 300 in New York, were brought under the Americans With Disabilities Act, more than double the number five years ago. Most of the cases involve claims against businesses filed by nonemployees.

    Lawmakers and federal judges have questioned the practice, contending that the lawyers are only interested in generating legal fees; they say the lawyers typically do not give the businesses a chance to remedy the problem before filing suit. Those who defend the lawsuits say the means are justified to bring more businesses into compliance.

    (continued)

  2. #2
    Senior Member Foolish Old's Avatar
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    I'm involved in advocating for PWD here in Florida. I do this without material compensation and at my own expense. I've been recruited to be a litigant but declined. My approach has always been more carrot than stick.

    Having said the above, I've reached the grudging conclusion that little happens until it costs more for a business or government entity to refuse to comply with ADA than to comply.
    Foolish

    "We have met the enemy and he is us."-POGO.

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  3. #3
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    This has been going on for years all across the country. As a commercial real estate attorney whose clients included many people with older buildings, these suits and lawyers really annoyed me. But, I eventually realized that these suits and the worry over them really went a long way in getting people to make ADA improvements. The suits themselves often cost more than the cost of the improvements, so people eventually decided to think about making the improvements before they got sued.

    Ambulance chasers for the public good, you might say.
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    Senior Member ColonusFan's Avatar
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    More Lawyers...

    ...better for us?

    I need a lawyer that will sue the pants off the employer I had when I was originally injured on the job. Even though I took Workers Compensation they REFUSED TO PUT ME BACK TO WORK. I am no friend to all attorneys but when my employer broke Federal Law by not offering me back my old job MAYBE WE DO NEED MORE LAWSUITS!

    Some one please Private Message me with a GREAT Labor Attorney who is knowledgeable in Workers Compensation. Personal injury ambulance chasers that shaft their clients should be given the opportunity to have the EXACT INJURY visited on them selves or some one they love, then we the disabled would have MORE ADVOCATES of the ESQUIRE TYPE.

  5. #5
    Senior Member brucec's Avatar
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    I like it, hope it caughts on in all cities


    "The results of the suits were almost immediate: workers grabbed their hammers, installing new ramps, lowering counters and shelves and making businesses more accessible to people with disabilities. And as a product of the litigation, the businesses had to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees to Mr. Weitz and his associates""
    We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.
    Ronald Reagan

  6. #6
    It's a win-win situation.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by ColonusFan View Post
    ...better for us?

    I need a lawyer that will sue the pants off the employer I had when I was originally injured on the job. Even though I took Workers Compensation they REFUSED TO PUT ME BACK TO WORK. I am no friend to all attorneys but when my employer broke Federal Law by not offering me back my old job MAYBE WE DO NEED MORE LAWSUITS!

    Some one please Private Message me with a GREAT Labor Attorney who is knowledgeable in Workers Compensation. Personal injury ambulance chasers that shaft their clients should be given the opportunity to have the EXACT INJURY visited on them selves or some one they love, then we the disabled would have MORE ADVOCATES of the ESQUIRE TYPE.
    There are really good personal injury attorneys all over the country. Sure, they ave families to feed and 401K accounts, etc. and want to make money, but they also want to help their clients. You just have to find the good ones, just like everything else in life.
    2012 SCINetUSA Clinical Trial Support Squad Member
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  8. #8
    This morning Lis Weihl, attorney and legal contributor to Fox News appeared with another attorney. They "debated" the merits of these vexatious litigations. She stated that these small businesses should be given a "chance" to comply with the ADA before being sued. The ADA was passed in 1990. Businesses across the country have had 22 years of a chance to comply. There are consequences for not complying with the ADA. When do we stop being permissive?

    Of course there are municipal and county entities that continue to give businesses a pass on complying with the ADA. There should be some way to get city and county building inspectors to stop giving occupancy certificates away. It always amazes me how many interpretations there can be to requirements that have specific measurements, dimensions, and language. Why are there business in my area who still don't have handicapped parking spaces and ramps to the front door? Why is there a restaurant in my community (less than 20 years old) that has restrooms on the second floor, no elevator, and no restrooms on the ground level? Why doesn't my former dentist's office have a threshold ramp after he spent several thousands of dollars restyling (paint, new furniture and equipment) his office. Answer: Building inspectors look the other way and ignore these details.

    All the best,
    GJ

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by KiranA View Post
    It's a win-win situation.
    yep...good for them.
    "The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.” ~Carlos Castaneda

  10. #10

    Angry

    Quote Originally Posted by Foolish Old View Post
    I'm involved in advocating for PWD here in Florida. I do this without material compensation and at my own expense. I've been recruited to be a litigant but declined. My approach has always been more carrot than stick.

    Having said the above, I've reached the grudging conclusion that little happens until it costs more for a business or government entity to refuse to comply with ADA than to comply.
    Me too. I just sent off a letter to a realtor regarding their parking lot.

    My City has made MAJOR errors and really needs the DOJ up their ass as I've been silent too long.

    Lawyers such as these tick me off. How much do they get? I hear they go to the Abilities expo.

    If you collect the $ will it effect one's benefits? Is it income do they really care if an individual gets screwed?
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