Increasing Access–to Lawsuits
A freight train of frivolous litigation may be en route to America’s small businesses. The U.S. Department of Justice is proposing 1,000 pages of new regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If these go into effect, ADA would apply to “drinking fountains, amusement park rides, stadium and theater seating, fishing piers, boat slips, bowling lanes,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal said, and 50 percent of the holes at miniature golf courses would have to be equipped for wheelchairs.
ADA was bad enough to start with. Originally intended to make public facilities handicapped-accessible, the number of persons classified under the law as disabled mushroomed until now the U.S. Census Bureau puts 51 million Americans on the disabled list–about one in six Americans. It includes people who are depressed or can’t have sex.
The paper said the new rules could cost business and government $23 billion over the next 40 years to comply, not including the costs of private litigation. That’s the devil in the details.
Source: “ADA regulations,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, July 24, 2008
San Francisco attorney Tom Frankovich was featured in an article in a San Francisco publication headlined “Wheelchair of Fortune.”
There was good reason for that headline. Frankovich has made an estimated $10 million in filing ADA suits, often for a hard core of clients who claim to have suffered identical injuries the same day in various businesses. He has filed between 1,500 and 1,800 cases, according to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Web site.
In 2005, he was banned from filing any more cases in the Central District Court of California without the judge’s permission. The judge also referred the case to the California Bar Association to investigate disbarment or suspension of Frankovich and his law firm because it allegedly “engaged in a pattern of unethical behavior designed ultimately to extort money from businesses and their insurers,” the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said in affirming the district court decision, which is now on appeal to the Supreme Court.
Frankovich is still at it, however, targeting small business in San Francisco, where the order is not in effect, the Chronicle says. Some of them are being put out of business. “The proliferation of these lawsuits really is a situation that’s out of control,” said one California lawyer. Frankovich disagrees, calling the defendants “scofflaws,” SF Weekly reports. “Lawsuits are the only language these people understand,” he said. “Unless you pound them into submission, nothing will ever change.”
Ironically, his wheelchair-bound clients can’t visit his office. He works out of a restored Victorian with 19 steps that isn’t handicapped-accessible.
Sources: Ron Russell, “Wheelchair of Fortune,” SF Weekly, July 25, 2007; Carol Lloyd, “ADA accessibility lawsuits causing headaches for small business owners,” SF Gate, June 13, 2008
Liberty, a German shepherd police dog, isn’t in the doghouse–she’s in the courthouse in Warren, Michigan.
In the confusion of a neighborhood melee, police were called. The responders included Liberty, a tracking dog. Liberty bit a woman in the backside, so the woman sued the city and Liberty. It actually was a clever pet trick by the plaintiff’s lawyer, because the city has immunity unless it is shown to be grossly negligent. Liberty isn’t immune, so just plain negligence is sufficient.
The plaintiff’s complaint says she suffered “pain, suffering, emotion distress, humiliation, mortification, and embarrassment,” the lawsuit says. No kidding!
Source: Jameson Cook, “Warren’s canine, Liberty, named in action against city for chomp on the butt,” Macomb Daily, August 31, 2008, via iamlawsuitabuse.org, a project of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
A man zapped by overhead wires when he tried illegally to ride on the roof of a Boston-New York Amtrak train is now suing the railway for damages for his injuries. The railway “should have known that persons trespassed” in the station where railway personnel found him, he argues.
He alleges the railroad should have inspected for trespassers or parked its idle trains elsewhere. The suit also claims Amtrak should have monitored the area, cut off the electricity going to the overhead wires, and even parked its trains somewhere else when they weren’t in use.
Not surprisingly, liquor was involved. He had been partying in Boston but said he “wanted to get back to New York” and left at about 2 a.m.
Source: Kathianne Boniello, “Zapped Amtrak Trespasser Sues,” New York Post, August 31, 2008, via overlawyered.com
Back on the Beach
It’s illegal to let your underwear show in Riviera Beach, Florida. Just ask a man who was “caught with his pants down” there and arrested. A local ordinance bans “exposure of undergarments in public.” Police said his pants “were so low that it exposed his blue and white boxer shorts approximately two inches below his waist.” He could be fined up to $150 for this first offense; a second could land him in jail for 30 days.
Well, at least he was wearing underwear.
Source: “Florida man nabbed for violating city’s new baggy trouser ordinance,” www.thesmokinggun.com, September 3, 2008
The Rich Are Different, All Right
A New York man who owns a Bentley involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident is suing the city for damaging it while it was impounded as evidence.
The man pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received five years’ probation and community service. He now seeks at least $190,000 in his lawsuit for alleged damages to his black 2005 Bentley GT luxury sedan. While police have a duty to take care of all cars they impound, they owe a particular duty to the owners of expensive ones, he alleges.
The victim’s family lawyer disagrees. The owner “has shown greater concern for the condition of his vehicle than the condition of the victim it left behind.”
Source: John Marzulli, “Hit-and-run driver claims city didn’t take care of his Bentley after crash,” New York Daily News, August 24, 2008, viaoverlawyered
Suing the Hand that Feeds You
A Long Island police officer has notified his employer, Nassau County, he plans to sue it for $50 million after being injured on duty.
He was severely injured after stopping a drunk driver and was parked with his lights flashing. His suit blames the accident on the county’s alleged negligence, carelessness, and recklessness in designing, maintaining, repairing, and controlling the road. He seeks recovery for past and future economic and noneconomic damages. That’s right, $50 million worth.
Source: Sid Cassese, “Injured cop plans to sue Nassau for $50 million,” Newsday, August 18, 2008, via overlawyered.com
Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly
Published by The Heartland Institute (312/377-4000), a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded in 1984.
Phone 312/377-4000, fax 312/377-5000
Back issues are available online at http://www.heartland.org
Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Editors: Maureen Martin, Diane Carol Bast
Information on lawsuit abuse can be found on these Web sites:
The Heartland Institute
19 South La Salle Street #903
Chicago, Illinois 60603