Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Wretched Excess

The Americans with Disabilities Act was one of those laws that was passed with good intentions.   But a story in the local Folsom paper suggests why it its original intent has been perverted by legal trolls.

The Lake Forest Cafe is a restaurant that was built out of an old house.  It has always been a marginal business.   The space is limited and it was open for limited hours.   But for the regulars of the place it is a down home place for brunch.  (They serve breakfast and lunch, at least until June 30).  They're closing because one of the troll law firms who specialize in ADA suits.

One their site the firm claims - "The Moore Law Firm, P.C. was founded in 1993 by attorney K. Randolph Moore on the belief that every United States citizen is entitled to the protection of his or her constitutional rights.  One of those rights is the ability to access public accommodations (businesses, restaurants, movie theaters and the like) regardless of one's disability.  The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA") and related California law empowered the attorneys at the Moore Law Firm to end discrimination against persons with disabilities, and we have achieved wide-spread positive change in communities throughout California."   This type of firm makes a living by searching for businesses that are out of compliance with the ADA and then suing the owners.     The attorney who filed the suit, one Tanya Moore, went to Santa Clara Law school.   Evidently Ms. Moore did not take a course in Constitutional Law - the ADA is statutory.

The ADA was adopted by Congress more than two decades ago.  And for the first few years, there were a lot of enforcement actions against large businesses and others to encourage compliance.   But since the Act was passed, fewer and fewer establishments are not in compliance so firms like the Moore firm troll for clients.   Most of what they do is sue to get a settlement.   The Plaintiff in this case is one Robert Kalani, who seems to have teamed up with the Moore Law firm on other ADA related cases (see for example a case filed in April of this year) in at least one other case.  If you check out recent filings of Mr. Kalani you see that he has made a nice little niche for himself in the last several months suing a variety of businesses in the Sacramento area.  From the filings he also seems to have been involved in lawsuits outside of the area.  Seems like he and his troll lawyer(s) have made a nice business of lawsuits.

The bounty that these trolls are able to reap comes from the structure of the suits.   The suits are almost impossible to defend, indeed, the Lake Forest Cafe (or an earlier case in a small restaurant called the Squeeze Inn) facility is quirky.   It is after all an old house.  It is unlikely that the house could be refitted to meet the ADA requirements without significant cost.   On new construction ADA compliance adds some additional cost but on rehab the costs can be huge.   If the defendant loses they end up having to pay their own lawyer, the plaintiff's lawyer, any settlement costs and court costs.    So many businesses end up settling. 

There are plenty of places for Mr. Kalani to get breakfast, even a hearty one, in a stones throw from the soon to be closed cafe.   Congratulations Ms. Moore and Mr. Kalani - while this lawsuit was not successful you did help to build unemployment in the area and to destroy a decent place for an informal brunch.


Anonymous said...

What do you suggest we do? This law is being abused. A letter campaign? The restaurant association could impact a move to grandfather buildings of a,certain age or type. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

There needs to be laws passed that in such cases the plaintiff can not receieve any awards for the suit and that the owner has the option to rectify the situation at a low cost or recieve some kind of tax break to meet the compliance. It is a shame there is so much greed. Cause and effect.

jaybird said...

Mr. Kalani is a complete jerk.I am disabled and would never stoop to the levels he has to make money for himself.what an arrogant fool, he is nothing more than a professional victim who brags about his conquests at winning CandyCrush Saga on Face Book page. Ugly,I had better be careful.He might sue me slander.

Jonathan Brown said...

Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

If a business makes it impossible for African-American people to enter a business, should they just go somewhere else? What if there's a sign saying: "No Niggers Allowed"?; According to ADA-opposers logic, they should go somewhere else because they obviously have old guidelines at that location and the black person should go to a place with newer liberal guidelines. The business did not close because of a silly lawsuit, ADA lawsuits all settle for around the minimum of $4,000, I've had traffic tickets cost more than that. If they couldn't afford that measly sum then they shouldn't be in business at all. I doubt anyone could get rich off of $4,000, that is a joke. If you read the complaint on rfcexpress.com or some other website you will see that he couldn't even get through the door. Is it unreasonable for someone to demand a larger door so that they can get into your business instead of wait outside while their family goes in and eats without them?

Jonathan Brown said...

Anon- Although you did not have the gumption to respond by name I will still try and respond to your argument. The Civil Rights Act is different on a number of levels from the ADA. First, the kind of citizen suits allowed in the ADA are much more proscribed than in the ADA. Second, were a restaurant to post a racially offensive statement like the one you suggest - they would be changing their operations and out of compliance with the Civil Rights Act. In the case of Mr. Kalani's lawsuit he was asking the establishment to retrofit. The business preceded the passage of the ADA. I believe the citizen suits have been abused. The very fact that Mr. Kalani has filed numerous suits since the start of the year demonstrates that fact. I am not sure where you get your data but the numbers I have seen suggest that the average ADA lawsuit settles for considerably more than $4000. One ADA compliance firm estimated the average cost between $10,000 and $100,000.

The second consideration is, if you read the pleading on the lawsuit, I think the claim was for considerably more than simply widening the door. I suspect that by the end of the suit the owner of the cafe would have had to enlarge door openings, reduce the number of tables (to allow a wider pass through) and perhaps improve the restrooms. The costs of rehabbing a 100+ year old house would have been considerably more than $4000.

My point, and I believe the vast majority of Californians would agree - was that in this instance the collusion between a plaintiff and a plaintiff's attorney caused a functioning business to close. That is unfortunate.

One final comment, I find you use of language offensive, I thought seriously of not publishing the comment simply for your blatant use of a racially offensive term.

Anonymous said...

These suites are are used to make attorneys rich and the stool pigeons they use as complainants gain an income over and under the table they can't roll up to.

CORFEE said...

Hi, I love your verbiage "professional victim." I am anDA attorney defending businesses against serial disable plaintiffs. I am litigating against Mr. Kalani's complaint of having suffered alleged barriers, such as some ominal slope issues. I found out that the ramp to his own house is so steep that his wheelchair tips. He is during for injuries and emotional distress when his own ramps is far worse than my client's parking lot!!! He cannot be injured when he lives with an excessive slope that is worse than the defendant's parking. The Judge thinks I am harassing him by requesting to conduct a site survey at his house to measure only those elements that he sued my client for. I need that Facebook page!! Does he show pictures of his driveway, parking at his house and any interior. Do you know others who could help me? I am Catherine Corfee, web wee.corfeestone.com. The jury needs to know this evidence to determine the truth and whether or not he claims he suffered emotional distress over de-minimous measurements that are an inch or two off or .50 degrees off the ADA's slope requirements.

CORFEE said...

Excellent article and great research regarding Ms. Moore's web site statement! I am an ADA Defense Attorney currently litigating a case against Kalani/Moore. I have evidence that his own ramp to access his house has a slope that is far greater and worse than my client's slopes. He traverses his ramp on a daily basis so it seems unlikely that he was injured at my client's parking lot slopes, which are ever so slight.

How was he barred, and suffered emotional distress and damages? He parked, went into the facility, received the services and left. He waits. He does not tell them about his alleged injuries. Nearly 7 months later he sues in Federal Court for purported ADA violations, which are an inch or so off. They are minor.

I had a picture taken of his beautiful truck parked in a regular handicap space at his deposition. I noticed he did not drive a van. If you do not drive a van, you cannot sue over non-compliant ADA Van Accessibility codes and signage. Yet he sued my client for such.

If you or anyone who has posted herein has any information that a jury should consider regarding his claim of lacking access and suffering injuries, please contact me. catherine@corfeestone.com, www.corfeestone.com I would especially like to see the Facebook bragging statements by him!!! I am a bounty hunter for vexatious ADA litigators!

Keep up the good research and writing!