Federal court condemns frivolous, serial ADA litigation which subverts the noble purpose of the ADA and the entire legal profession
On April 16, 2012, an article appeared on the front page of the New York Times about the proliferation of lawsuits brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (or ADA) against small businesses and portending a wave of cases to come. Indeed, lawyers from Florida and other states have joined forces with local attorneys to file scores of ADA lawsuits against small businesses, many of which are owned by minority entrepreneurs.
On March 28, 2013, a Federal Judge in the Eastern District of New York excoriated plaintiff Mike Costello’s attorneys for filing scores of frivolous ADA lawsuits against mom-and-pop businesses over technical or non-existent deviations from the ADA Standards only to line their own pockets. Costello v. Flatman, LLC, 11-CV-287.
Dozens of “boilerplate” ADA lawsuits
In 2011, the plaintiff, Mike Costello, filed a complaint against a Subway franchisee and his landlord under the ADA and state and city New York Human Rights laws. The same day, the plaintiff and his lawyers filed seven other identical ADA lawsuits against small businesses located within a two-block radius of the Subway store. Costello later amended his complaint to bring in another defendant who ignored the lawsuit, resulting in a default being taken. After the Court issued a $14.31 default judgment, plaintiff’s counsel filed a motion for fees and litigation costs in the amount of $15,172 supposedly incurred in prosecuting the action. [Note: This is not a typographical error. The damages were fourteen dollars and thirty one cents. The attorneys’ fees sought were more than fifteen thousand dollars.]
The Judge noted that in a boilerplate complaint, Costello alleged that he is disabled, required a wheelchair for mobility, and that he visited a Subway restaurant where he encountered various ADA barriers which prevented him from enjoying the goods and services offered at Subway. The plaintiff was represented by two law firms, one from New York the other from Florida. The Court found that together, these attorneys filed dozens of boilerplate ADA lawsuits alleging very similar barriers only to force the defendants to pay money to settle the cases. Continue ›