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Legal Ethics

Ethics Complaint Says Lawyer Used ADA Suits to Extort Settlements

Posted Sep 12, 2008 7:14 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A California lawyer who has filed hundreds of disability lawsuits against businesses has been accused in an ethics complaint of extorting quick cash settlements and making up injuries.

The state bar complaint against Bay-area lawyer Thomas Frankovich said he filed more than 200 lawsuits against businesses in 2004 alone that contended they were not accessible to the disabled, the Daily Journal reports (sub. req.). The plaintiff in most of the suits was Jarek Molski, who uses a wheelchair.

The state bar said Frankovich would wait as along as a year to file a complaint and then would seek damages of $4,000 a day for the period, the story says. After filing a complaint, he would send a letter to the defendant that “could be viewed as intimidating as well as inaccurate," the state bar says. The letter advised defendants they shouldn’t hire a lawyer, they had no defense to the complaint and they should quickly settle the case.

Frankovich was sanctioned by a federal judge in Los Angeles for one of the suits he filed in 2004, and the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision. The sanction required Frankovich to get permission before filing any more ADA claims in the Central District.

The judge said Molski had claimed he injured himself at multiple businesses on the same day, and the injuries Frankovich cited in his complaint were contrived.

Frankovich generally denied the bar charges in his response and said his conduct “was not intimidating, misleading, coercive, extortionist or in conscious disregard for the public's rights.”

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