Articles Posted in Abusive Litigation

Since January 2005, 16,530 lawsuits alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) have been filed in federal courts across the country. More of these lawsuits were filed in California than in any other state. Some believe that California is a hotbed of ADA litigation because California law awards damages and attorneys’ fees to private plaintiffs for defendant’s ADA violations — treble damages, with minimum statutory damages of $4,000 (prior to the passing of this Senate Bill), and punitive damages. An unknown number of accessibility cases have been filed in California state courts, and countless more claims have been threatened against mostly small business owners.

Past efforts to curtail ADA litigation abuse in California have been marginally successful. Unfortunately, the latest California legislation (SB 1186) may also provide limited relief from abusive ADA litigation. Key provisions of the new law became effective January 1, 2013. California SB 1186, through comprehensive amendments to a number of California laws, including provisions of the California Civil Code (Sections 55.3 et seq.), was intended to provide protection for the owners and operators of public accommodations who are making a good faith effort to comply with the ADA.

An overview of the main provisions of the new California law and our ADA Defense Lawyer observations “from the trenches” regarding the new law follows. Continue ›

Mass-produced ADA litigation: Plaintiff and his lawyer sanctioned

The end to sue-and-settle “drive bys”?

A couple of weeks ago, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge granted a business owner’s motion for sanctions under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 128.7 against a plaintiff who has filed many ADA cases against Southern California businesses.

A “professional plaintiff” that has filed more than 400 nearly identical lawsuits against hotels, restaurants and other businesses in California may have to find a new line of work. The U.S. Supreme has let stand a prior ruling that this serial plaintiff, and his lawyer, cannot file ADA lawsuits without first obtaining the court’s permission.

On November 17, 2008, the United States Supreme Court let stand a key Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that a “serial plaintiff” and his attorney, who had filed more than 400 lawsuits against California businesses, could not file repeated Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) lawsuits against business owners without first obtaining court permission. In all but one of the 400 cases, the businesses settled out of court, avoiding substantial defense costs and time needed to fight the litigation.

A federal judge in Los Angeles called these litigation tactics “extortion” and based on trumped up claims of injury. The United States Supreme Court refused to grant a hearing to review the appellate court’s highly extraordinary ruling in the case, Molski v. Evergreen Dynasty Corp., 08-38, which found the plaintiff and his attorney to be “vexatious” for filing over 400 virtually identical ADA lawsuits in federal court.

The ruling is important because the lower courts found that the lawsuits were filed for improper purposes, even though barriers to accessibility existed at many of the businesses. Continue ›