Business of Law

Lawyer's Multiple Disability Claims Irk Targeted Businesses in Calif. City


A San Diego lawyer has irritated business owners in the town of Redlands, Calif., by sending out letters on behalf of clients demanding $6,500 settlements for claimed violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and related state law.

Attorney James Mason says he represents two disabled veterans who don’t live in Redlands but want to visit businesses there while getting medical treatment in nearby Loma Linda, reports the San Bernadino Sun. He declined to say how many businesses he sent letters to, but says he handles such cases throughout the state.

Many of the claimed infractions focus on parking issues, and at least one owner, Paul Barich, says the only problem at his establishment was a lack of signage. Within two days of receiving the letter, he says, he rectified the issue and restriped the existing disabled parking.

Kathie Thurston, executive director of the Redlands Chamber of Commerce, calls the settlement demands “legal extortion” that abuses technicalities, the newspaper reports. In a tough economy, many business owners are struggling to keep their heads above water, she notes.

However, Mason says his clients are entitled to at least $4,000 per violation, plus attorney fees, for such ADA violations.

“I send a reasonable demand and all the information necessary to help them become compliant,” he tells the Sun. “There has to be some incentive to follow the law.”

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Ethics Complaint Says Lawyer Used ADA Suits to Extort Settlements”

ABAJournal.com: “Supreme Court OKs ADA Lawsuit Ban Against ‘Hit & Run’ Plaintiff & Counsel”

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