Trials & Litigation
Nonlawyer Earns Almost $300K a Year from Disability Suits
Posted Jan 5, 2009 5:58 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
Thomas Mundy isn't a lawyer. But he says he's filed 150 lawsuits over the past 18 months, seeking to enforce a federal law that requires businesses to be wheelchair-accessible.
Disabled since a 1988 motorcycle accident and otherwise unemployed, Mundy sues when he runs across violations of state disabilities law, according to the Los Angeles Times.
He won't say how much he's earned through his litigation crusade. However, lawyers for defendants in the cases he has brought estimate Mundy made about $300,000 from the litigation in a little over a year, and that his lawyer, Morse Mehrban, earned a similar amount, the newspaper reports.
Although the federal Americans with Disabilities Act also requires that businesses be accessible to the disabled, suing over such violations is particularly lucrative in California, according to the Times.
That's because the state's Disabled Persons Act provides for statutory damages of $1,000 per violation for impediments such as missing grab bars or amenities that are too high to reach from a wheelchair, Mehrban advises potential clients on a law firm Web page.
For example, a wheelchair user who goes to a self-service laundry once a month and hasn't been able to dry his or her hands for a year because the paper towel dispenser is too high on the wall over the sink is entitled to $12,000, the website advises.
Faced with such potential damages, as well as the cost of defending a disability case, many businesses settle, the Times writes.
"He might as well have had a gun and asked me for $1,000 when he came in," Paul Venetos, who owns a hamburger restaurant in Anaheim, Calif., tells the newspaper. A visit there by Mundy resulted in a lawsuit over a condiments counter that allegedly exceeded height requirement—by half an inch.
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