California Law Protects Shake Down Attorneys

By: Hector Barajas & Mike Vallante 

Sam Stanton with the Sacramento Bee wrote that Sacramento attorney Scott Johnson was indicted in May 2019 on tax charges. Johnson had filed thousands of disability lawsuits in Sacramento and seemed to have moved on to the Bay Area. 

The American Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted to ensure that people with disabilities have access to places of public accommodations, such as retail stores, restaurants, places of entertainment, bars, and stores. The ADA was enacted with good intentions, but it has created an industry for people like Johnson, who file thousands of drive-by lawsuits. 

Attorneys like Johnson file ADA violation lawsuits for imperfect language or font size on handicapped parking signs, the height of the counters or toilet grab bars or imperfect handicap parking slots.  

Johnson is a quadriplegic who rides a motorized wheelchair to places such as restaurants, gas stations, and dentist offices. He then sends a letter claiming that they have an ADA violation. 

The letter that Johnson sends comes with an offer to settle and avoid costly court charges. Those settlements can range between $4000 – $20,000. And, if you don’t have the money to pay the settlement, a payment plan is offered. Some business owners aren’t so lucky. Some businesses are forced to fold up shop.

And, let’s be honest, the businesses that are often targeted for these drive-by lawsuits are minority-owned. The lawyer preys on their fear, and those businesses are the most likely to go under.

 “The calculation is always this: How afraid are the clients, and how much are they afraid of having to pay a lawyer than perhaps paying to settle the claim? It’s very calculated and very jaded.”

As reported by the law firm Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP, in some parts of the country, judges are beginning to crack down on serial ADA disability claimants:

“In yet another blow to certain plaintiffs and their attorneys who file multiple cases each year asserting violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a New York federal judge has stated firmly that enough is enough.” 

Common sense says we accommodate those who need help, not capitulate to the legal blackmail of shyster attorneys. It’s time the courts in America take a stand for people with disabilities and the businesses who seek to accommodate them and against attorneys that line their pockets with frivolous lawsuits.

***

Hector Barajas is a communications expert with decades of political, legislative and media experience. Nationally recognized for his work on political campaigns, ethnic media outreach, and public affairs from Capitol Hill to Sacramento. 

Mike Vallante has extensive experience in communications and public relations. Mike served as the Regional Administrator for U.S. Small Business Administrations Region IX. He previously served as Chief Staff to the Co-Chairman of the Republican National Committee in Washington, DC. Before that, he was Chief Operating Officer of the California Republican Party from 2003 to 2007. 

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