So. Cal. Equal Access Group is a law firm based in Los Angeles, CA that files a large number of physical accessibility lawsuits against businesses and landlords. The attorneys who are part of the law firm include Jason J. Kim, Jason Yoon, and Kevin Hong. Their lawsuits generally allege violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act and California’s Disabled persons Act.
Generally, the lawsuits are filed on behalf of serial plaintiffs, who file dozens or hundreds of nearly identical lawsuits. So. Cal. Equal Access Group often files each lawsuit on behalf of one of the plaintiffs listed below:
- Lamar Myers
- Maria Garcia
- Ignacio Vera
- Miguel Hernandez
- Oscar Magallanes
- Colton Bryant
- Moises Villalobos
- Michael Rhambo
- Ana Ventura
- Jesus Garcia
- Dennis Cooper
- Juan Valencia
- Nelson Chilin
- Miriam Maldonado
- Yeong Lee
- Marquise Bailey
- Alvaro Orosco
- Luz Zendejas
- Jeremy Holland
- Guri Gonzalez
- Yuri Doering
- Joshua Cuevas
- Sam Benford
- Deondre Raglin
Each lawsuit will generally allege that one of the above plaintiffs is physically disabled, that he or she visited the property on a certain date (often several months before filing the lawsuit), and that he or she encountered accessibility barriers that prevented full and equal access at the property. Common barriers alleged include the following:
- Accessible parking slopes exceed requirements
- Incorrect or missing accessible parking space signage
- No van accessible parking space
- Defendants failed to mark the space with the International Symbol of Accessibility
The first thing you’ll need to do is respond to the complaint within 21 or 30 days, depending on what court it’s filed in. Otherwise, the plaintiff can request a default judgement be entered against you by the court for failure to respond.
Generally, lawsuits by So. Cal. Equal Access Group are filed in United States District Court, Central District of California. This is US federal court as opposed to California Superior Court, which is state court. In state court, a defendant has 30 days from the date of service (i.e., receiving the complaint) to respond to the complaint. In federal court, the response must be filed within 21 days of service.
Generally, responding to the complaint involves either admitting or denying the various allegations and asserting various affirmative defenses. It might be more prudent, however, to file a motion to dismiss if there are strong defenses. It is important to hire experienced counsel to represent you and advise you on the defenses available in your specific case, such as JMBM’s ADA Compliance and Defense attorneys.
The lawsuit will often look something like this:
You and your counsel should determine if the claims alleged in the complaint are valid. In other words, is there liability? Some lawsuits lack merit and can be defended or dismissed by the court. See my articles on these topics:
In some cases, it is prudent to hire a certified access specialist (CASp) to survey the property and provide a report regarding whether it complies with relevant law. A CASp is a professional who has been certified by the State of California to have specialized knowledge of the applicability of state and federal construction-related accessibility standards. Statutory damages can be reduced for a period of time following the hiring of a CASp. For more on this topic, see here.
If there is liability, the next step is to explore a possible settlement of the case. The goal of this approach is to negotiate the best terms possible given the facts and circumstances of the case. We always seek to lower the settlement amount for our clients as much as possible, provide plenty of time to update the property, and obtain a full release of liability with dismissal of the lawsuit. In settlement negotiations, resolving the lawsuit in the most efficient way possible is the objective.
If you have questions about these cases or how to handle them, please reach out to me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 415-984-9622. I can let you know if our firm is taking on new clients or refer you to other competent counsel if not.