UPDATE: On December 23, 2020, the Fourth Appellate District Court dismissed the Riverside County District Attorney’s case against James Rutherford and his attorneys, on appeal. As reported in our May 21, 2019 blog below, the DA’s case alleged ADA serial plaintiff James Rutherford and the lawyers who regularly represent him were involved in abusive litigation. The Appellate Court dismissed this claim (see unpublished Opinion here) as the ADA lawsuits were protected by California’s litigation privilege. The Court wrote: “As we explain, the litigation privilege applies to the People’s complaint, and the People have not shown that an exception to the privilege applies.” It was our view then, and even more so after the Appellate Court’s decision, that the Riverside D.A.’s theory of the case led to the inevitable outcome. Perhaps the D.A.’s office will take a fresh look at the facts of the case and apply a new theory if it intends to pursue a case against serial ADA litigants.
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
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 →