Articles Posted in ADA Compliance and Defense

Published on:

29 May 2019

JMBM’s ADA Compliance and Defense Group has defended more than 750 ADA lawsuits and DOJ investigations or actions brought against owners and operators of hotels and other businesses classified as “public accommodations” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A federal Grand Jury has indicted a prolific ADA plaintiff for income tax evasion. More than just an interesting story, Marty Orlick explains how this might affect current and future ADA litigation.

 

Serial Plaintiff Who Filed Nearly 3,000 Americans with Disabilities Act (‘ADA’) Lawsuits is Indicted by a Federal Grand Jury and Faces Possible Imprisonment and Fines for Income Tax Evasion
by
Martin H. Orlick, Hotel Lawyer  & Chair,
JMBM’s ADA Compliance & Defense Group

In an ironic twist of fate, Scott N. Johnson, Esq., a disabled Sacramento attorney, who has filed nearly 3,000 ADA lawsuits as plaintiff, starting in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, now faces possible jail time for felony income tax fraud according to a Federal Grand Jury Indictment.

On May 23, 2019, United States Attorneys filed a Grand Jury Indictment, United States of America v. Scott Norris Johnson, accusing Johnson of three counts of “Making and Subscribing a False Tax Return” by failing to declare substantial income derived from ADA settlements on his U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns and his U.S. Corporation Income Tax Returns for the tax years 2012-2014.

According to the Indictment, from no later than “on or about January 28, 2008, SCOTT NORRIS JOHNSON owned and operated Disabled Access Prevents Injury, Inc. (“DAPI”), a corporation registered in the State of California. DAPI was treated as a C corporation for tax purposes.” The Indictment alleges that Johnson was DAPI’s sole shareholder and that DAPI “provided legal services associated with lawsuits that it filed on behalf of SCOTT NORRIS JOHNSON as the plaintiff.” CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

21 May 2019

JMBM’s ADA Compliance and Defense team, led by my partner Marty Orlick, continues to help hotels and other businesses achieve compliance under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and has defended more than 750 ADA lawsuits and DOJ investigations or actions brought against owners and operators of “public accommodations.” Such properties include hotels, resorts, restaurants, timeshares, bed and breakfasts, spas, sports facilities, wineries, theaters and other commercial real estate, such as apartment communities, shopping centers, retail stores and banks.

Today, Marty shares some good news from Riverside, California, where the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office is seeking to stop abusive ADA lawsuits filed by serial litigants.

 

Riverside County DA drops the hammer on ADA litigant and counsel
to stop abusive litigation
by
Martin H. Orlick, Hotel Lawyer  & Chair,
JMBM’s ADA Compliance & Defense Group

In an extraordinary case charging ADA litigation abuse, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office filed an action on behalf of the People of California seeking to permanently prevent serial ADA plaintiff James Rutherford and two law firms that regularly represent him (Manning Law and the Law Offices of Babak Hashemi, and individual members of the firms) from filing abusive lawsuits. The Complaint alleges that the defendants violated various Business & Professions Code sections designed to protect the public against “unlawful, unfair or fraudulent acts or practices” and seeks civil penalties not to exceed $2,500 for each violation and other equitable relief. Civil penalties in this case could exceed $800,000 if the allegations prove true.

The Complaint alleges that “Defendants filed 323 lawsuits based on alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act” in federal and state courts. Many of these lawsuits were filed against hotels and retailers. According to court papers, the pleadings filed by the defendants follow a pattern of near-identical “allegations, except for the identity of the named defendants and the date of the alleged harm.”

This lawsuit is eerily similar to a lawsuit filed by the Arizona Attorney General against Peter Strojnik, Sr., who filed nearly 2,000 identical ADA lawsuits against Phoenix/Scottsdale businesses. Suspended from practicing law, Mr. Strojnik surrendered his license to avoid disbarment. Another lawyer in New Mexico also surrendered her license in lieu of disbarment over ADA litigation abuse. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

15 February 2019

$87 billion in hotel transactions involving more than 3,900 properties

LOS ANGELES—The hotel lawyers of JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® are pleased to present their updated Hospitality Credentials, which include clients and projects that represent more than $87 billion in hotel transaction experience involving more than 3,900 properties worldwide – more than any other law firm.

“If you are a hotel owner, developer, or capital provider, our hospitality lawyers can provide expertise and experience you just won’t find elsewhere,” said Jim Butler, Chairman of JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group. “Whether you are buying or selling a hotel, developing a new one, need a privacy and cybersecurity plan, or defend an ADA lawsuit – we have lawyers who know the ropes, and can guide you every step of the way.”

JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group provides a full range of services to the hospitality industry including:

  • ADA compliance & defense
  • Cannabis
  • Celebrity chef agreements
  • Construction
  • Corporate governance
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data privacy
  • Development
  • Equity & joint ventures
  • Expert witness
  • Fiduciary duty
  • Financing
  • Foreign investment
  • Franchise & licensing
  • Hotel-specific contracts
  • Labor & employment
  • Land use & environmental
  • Leasing
  • Litigation
  • Management agreements
  • Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Opportunity Zone
  • Proposition 65
  • Purchase & sale
  • Shareholder disputes
  • Tax
  • Trademark & copyright
  • Trusts and estates
  • Union negotiations
  • Union prevention
  • Vacation ownership
  • Workouts, bankruptcies & receiverships
“Exceeding $87 billion in hotel transactions involving 3,900 properties is a new milestone, and one I am proud to announce,” said Butler. “I am grateful to all of our wonderful hospitality clients who have shown us their trust and confidence over the years and continue to provide us with challenging and meaningful work.”

About JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group
JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group is the premier hospitality practice in a full-service law firm and the most experienced legal and advisory team in the industry. The Group publishes the Hotel Law Blog and hosts the annual Meet the Money® National Hotel Finance & Investment Conference (May 6-9, 2019 in Los Angeles). For more information visit www.HotelLawyer.com.

Contact:

Jim Butler
jbutler@jmbm.com
+1 310-201-3526

Published on:

21 June 2018

As the number of electric and hybrid vehicles in California continues to grow, we are also seeing the proliferation of electric vehicle charging stations in the parking areas provided by hotels, theaters, stadiums and hotel mixed-use properties. While owners and managers of these facilities are providing a much-needed service to their guests, many are unaware that – at least in California – if their facility provides electric vehicle charging stations, a certain number of them must be accessible to the disabled.

The regulations and requirements for these accessible charging stations are very specific, and the article below, written by my partner Marty Orlick, gives only a high-level summary of the scoping and technical requirements. This is an area where you really need to talk to the experts.

 

Are Your electric vehicle charging stations “accessible” to disabled guests
under California’s latest regulations?

by
Martin H. Orlick
Chair, JMBM’s ADA Compliance & Defense Group

With the surge in popularity of electric and hybrid vehicles, the need to provide Electric Vehicle Charging Stations (EVCS) is on the rise at hotels, theaters, stadiums, and hotel mixed-use properties. If your EVCS are not accessible to your disabled guests, here is what you need to know.

California’s Regulations for EVCS Accessibility

In California, if your commercial facility provides EVCS for your customers and guests, you must also provide a certain number of EVCS that are accessible.

California’s accessibility regulations for EVCS are in the 2016 California Building Code (CBC), and went into effect on January 1, 2017. The regulations supersede and expand upon California’s little-known “Interim Disabled Access Guidelines for Electric Vehicle Charging Stations” created in 1997.

The CBC accessibility regulations include both scoping requirements (what type of EVCS and how many) and technical requirements (where to locate EVCS, and how to make them accessible).

Scoping Requirements

The number and type of accessible EVCS required is determined by the total number of EVCS at a facility. When new EVCS are added to a site with existing EVCS, the total number of new and existing EVCS is used to determine the number of accessible EVCS.

The table below, provided by the California Division of the State Architect, sets forth these scoping requirements. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

20 November 2017

JMBM’s ADA Compliance and Defense team, led by my partner Marty Orlick, continues to help hotels and other businesses achieve compliance under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and is actively defending numerous ADA lawsuits brought against our clients.

Today, he shares one of the stranger tales of serial ADA litigation and describes how the judicial system in New Mexico stopped the plaintiff and her lawyer from filing frivolous and malicious ADA lawsuits.

New Mexico Judge Dismisses 99 ADA Lawsuits as Fraudulent and Malicious
Entertains Sanction Motions
by
Martin H. Orlick, Chair, JMBM’s ADA Compliance & Defense Group

On October 26, 2017, a judge dismissed 99 ADA lawsuits, ordered an in forma pauperis plaintiff  (a person without funds to pursue the cost of a lawsuit) to pay filing fees of $38,300 and authorized the defendants to file fee and sanction motions.

Surely, this plaintiff’s lawyer rues the day she answered an ad on Craigslist looking for a civil rights lawyer to file ADA litigation in her jurisdiction.

What’s going on?

A Strange Set of Circumstances

The Arizona-based organization, Litigation Management and Financial Services, Inc. (LMFS), a descendant of the notorious ADA plaintiffs’ group Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities, used Craigslist, indeed.com and other online media to find and engage disabled plaintiffs to file ADA lawsuits, and lawyers to represent them. The online advertisements resulted in hundreds of ADA lawsuits filed against businesses in New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Utah.

It is also how a disabled plaintiff and her lawyer came to file 99 ADA lawsuits in New Mexico, alleging each defendant’s business violated the ADA and related anti-discrimination laws.  According to court documents, the deal LMFS made with this plaintiff and her counsel, worked like this:

  • The plaintiff was paid $50.00 per lawsuit filed.
  • The plaintiff’s counsel received $100 per filing for serving as counsel of record for each lawsuit filed.
  • LMFS drafted all pleadings and defended any motion practice in exchange for the lion’s share of any settlements that resulted from the lawsuits.
  • LMFS also arranged for a driver to take the plaintiff to some — but apparently not all — of the businesses that were sued, for a photo-op.

CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

1 April 2017

JMBM’s ADA Compliance and Defense team, led by my partner Marty Orlick, continues to help hotels and other businesses achieve compliance under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and is actively defending numerous ADA lawsuits brought against our clients.

As we predicted, more and more of these lawsuits allege that a company’s website and reservation system is not accessible to visually impaired customers. In his article below, Marty Orlick reports why a recent U.S. District Court decision may affect the future of ADA website litigation, and urges hoteliers to ensure their websites are accessible.

 

Judge Dismisses ADA Website Lawsuit
by
Martin H. Orlick, Chair, JMBM’s ADA Compliance & Defense Group

In September 2016, we published an alert that a group of plaintiff’s ADA lawyers had threatened a number of businesses – including hotels – with litigation claiming their websites failed to comply with “ADA Guidelines.”  (Read ADA Compliance & Defense Lawyer: ADA Website Accessibility Lawsuits Escalate.) These lawsuits have since been filed with greater frequency.

Since then, a number of threats have turned into lawsuits seeking injunctive relief (website accessibility), a multiple of $4,000 minimum statutory damages under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act (per visit to the website or from being deterred from visiting the website), attorneys’ fees and litigation costs.

Years ago, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) adopted rules requiring all federal agency websites to conform to the WCAG 2.0 A and AA Success Criteria as a means of providing accessible websites to persons who are blind, low vision, color blind or who suffer cognitive disabilities. In 2010, the DOJ issued a Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) stating that it intended to adopt formal ADA Guidelines for state and local government agencies to meet when designing websites. The DOJ intended to adopt the WCAG 2.0 A and AA Success Criteria for state and local government websites.  Justice then announced that it intended to adopt these same basic standards for private businesses’ websites.  But the DOJ withdrew its NOPR and has yet to issue final rules regarding web access standards for state and local agencies or private businesses.

ADA website lawsuit violates due process

Last week, in what is a ground breaking decision of particular importance to the hospitality industry, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California threw out a serial plaintiff’s lawsuit which alleged that Domino’s Pizza’s website violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related California anti-discrimination laws by not conforming to the WCAG 2.0 A and AA Success Criteria. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

6 January 2017

ADA Hospitality Defense and Compliance Lawyer: Hotel mixed-use projects have proliferated over the past decade or two — projects that combine a hotel with retail, residential, entertainment, office and other uses. In recent years, many of these projects combine hotel and shopping center elements. We are big fans of hotel mixed-use.

Over the years, we have written about the numerous advantages that accrue to both hotels and shopping centers, when hotels are added to the right shopping or retail center.  One study showed that the right hotel can boost gross sales at shopping centers 20% – 40% — and hotels can get 30% – 40% RevPAR advantage over hotels in their competitive set.

But those of you with these hotel in mixed-use projects with shopping centers or other retail elements know that mixed-use projects inject numerous additional legal and business issues that hoteliers usually don’t deal with in stand-alone hotel projects. One such critical issue is that of “common areas.”

In the article below, my partner, Marty Orlick, writes about one aspect of common area liability that you may have overlooked in defense to ADA violations. Of course, the ultimate analysis will depend on the precise facts of the situation at hand and the structure of the hotel’s participation in the mixed-use project — particularly whether or not the hotel is owned in fee or is a tenant in the project.

How many judges does it take to rule that shopping center tenants
are not liable for ADA violations in common areas?
by
Marty Orlick

First published in the October 2015 issue of the California State Bar’s Real Property Law Section E-Bulletin

Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) “to provide clear, strong consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities” in employment, public accommodations, transportation and federal, state and local government services. 42 U.S.C.§12101(b)(2). Title III of the ADA applies to public accommodations including shopping centers, theaters, arenas, restaurants, health clubs, hotels, banks, public space in office buildings, and nearly every manner of retail premises. Virtually every leased location which serves the general public and is engaged in commerce is subject to the accessibility requirements of the ADA. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

19 October 2016

ADA Defense Lawyer with a new case on Uber and Lyft

Uber and Lyft are back in the headlines again, but not for the usual ride share issues. This time it is for alleged violations of the ADA. Here is what my partner Marty Orlick, Chair of our ADA Compliance & Defense Group, has to say on this development.

The City of Brotherly Love is Showing Love to Persons with Disabilities
Under the ADA,
but not to Lyft or Uber
by
Martin H. Orlick, Chair, JMBM’s ADA Compliance & Defense Group

From coast to coast, Uber and Lyft have come under increasing fire from disability rights organizations and have faced litigation because their ride share practices allegedly discriminate against persons with disabilities.  Federal lawsuits were also filed in San Francisco against Uber and Lyft .

In what appears to be the most draconian decision to date, a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge ruled on October 6, 2016 that Uber and Lyft repeatedly violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and issued an order suspending their rideshare services in the City of Brotherly Love.  The ramifications of this Order could be felt throughout the United States and Canada, which has similar civil rights laws to protect persons with disabilities.

Common Pleas Judge Linda Carpenter’s Order in Blount v. Philadelphia Parking Authority granted plaintiff’s request for an injunction prohibiting the parking authority from authorizing Uber and Lyft to operate in the City of Brotherly Love.

The Complaint alleged that Uber and Lyft systematically failed to provide vehicles which accommodate persons in wheelchairs, routinely refuse to accommodate persons who travel with service animals and charge excessive pricing for such accommodations. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

16 October 2016

Click here for the latest articles on ADA Compliance & Defense.

JMBM’s ADA Defense & Compliance team takes the ADA seriously, and we recommend that our clients take a proactive approach in identifying and solving potential problems before they become lawsuits. For many years now, we have called attention to the importance of making website ADA-compliant, but hotels, resorts, restaurants, banks, retailers and other owners and operators of commercial real estate continue to be vulnerable to one of the more recent and serious waves of ADA complaints. See Charles Schwab settles web site accessibility claim and New ADA standards for website accessibility.

Today, my partner Marty Orlick talks about a recent wave of website accessibility claims plaguing owners of commercial real estate. Be smart. Understand the problem and fix it now. This issue is not going to go away.

 

Hotel Websites and Reservation Systems
Is your website accessible to the blind and vision impaired?
by
Martin H. Orlick, Chair, JMBM’s ADA Compliance & Defense Group

A version of this article was published by the California Bankers Association.

How would you react if you received a letter from a law firm alleging that your hotel’s website is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because it discriminates against persons who are visually disabled?

If your reaction is to take it seriously, you would be correct.

How would you react if you discovered a near-identical letter was sent to hundreds of other hotels, restaurants and other businesses – by the same law firm?

If your reaction is that you received a cookie-cutter letter by a plaintiff firm that is using a dragnet to identify possible defendants for lawsuits, you would also be correct.

How would you respond to the demand that you bring your website into compliance with international standards for web accessibility?

If you respond by picking up the phone to call experienced ADA legal counsel, you will be saving time and money.

What it’s all about

In January 2016, the law firm Carlson Lynch Sweet & Kilpela (CLSK) sent hundreds of near-identical form letters to national hotels, restaurants, financial institutions and other businesses, contending that the Department of Justice (DOJ) – the federal agency responsible for adopting ADA Standards – requires businesses to make their websites compliant with the ADA. (Note here that the DOJ has not formally adopted any specific website accessibility guidelines.) CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

13 October 2016

Click here for the latest articles on ADA Compliance & Defense.

JMBM’s ADA Defense & Compliance team takes the ADA seriously, and we recommend that our clients take a proactive approach in identifying and solving potential problems before they become lawsuits. But sometimes serial plaintiffs just go too far with claims that cannot be justified and which violate the purpose and spirit of the ADA. Today, my partner Marty Orlick talks about a recent case that offers property owners and operators some relief against this type of harassment.

Case Dismissed: Judge Rules that Plaintiff’s Pool Lift ADA Cases
Have No Place in Federal Court
by
Martin H. Orlick, Chair, JMBM’s ADA Compliance & Defense Group

In the latest decision against an Arizona “high frequency ADA litigant”, the United States District Court for the Central District of California ruled this week that cases like Brooke vs. Perry Family Trust, et al. have no place in Federal Court.

The plaintiff, Theresa Brooke, has filed hundreds of identical ADA lawsuits against Arizona and California hotels, including a half-dozen suits last week.  The plaintiff, a disabled resident of Arizona, contends that she was discriminated against by hundreds of hotel owners based on her disability.  She claims that these hotels violated the 2010 ADA Standards because they fail to provide permanent pool lifts at either or both the pool and spa.

In each case, Brooke alleges she called the hotels to “inquire whether the pool or Jacuzzi had a lift or other means of access for disabled persons” and the representative informed her that it did not.  Plaintiff then alleges she sent her “agent” – “an expert in ADA accessibility guidelines” – to visit the hotel, take pictures of the barriers and report back to her.  Plaintiff claims she frequently visits or intends to visit the area “in the coming months and for the indefinite future” for leisure and business. CONTINUE READING →