Wednesday, October 04, 2006

San Diego ADA Lawyer Strikes Again

In another example of ADA lawsuit abuse, San Diego attorney Theodore A. Pinnock has filed another series of predatory lawsuits under the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Mr. Pinnock was recently in the news for threatening the entire community of Julian with a class action ADA lawsuit. One Julian business decided to close down rather than fight the threatened lawsuit. Mr. Pinnock's latest victims are businesses in the City of La Mesa.

According to a story recently aired by Channel 8 News, Mr. Pinnock has filed a lawsuit against Reed's Hobby Shop and 5 neighboring businesses. Rather than notifying a business of any alleged noncompliance with the ADA, Mr. Pinnock adopts the "shoot first, ask questions latter" approach to litigation. Instead of allowing a business owner to make modifications, he files a lawsuit and demands money before providing a specific list of repairs. Mr. Pinnock's lawsuits are often filled with vague, boilerplate language that provides no specific guidance to a business owner regarding the alleged ADA violations.

While the Americans with Disabilities Act has been around since 1990, there is no government agency really set up to enforce the law or to educate the public regarding ADA requirements. This leaves a vacuum that allows inventive lawyers to sue businesses that are not in full compliance. There is a common misperception that older buildings and businesses are protected by a "grand father" clause, but this is simply not the case. Attorneys like Mr. Pinnock use this misconception as a method to exploit small businesses owners by demanding thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal fees.

No reasonable person would be intentionally noncompliant with the ADA. In fact, being ADA-compliant increases the potential customer base for a business. 99% of business owners would gladly correctly any ADA violations. Because of this, it is my belief that Congress should amend the law to allow a business cited for ADA violations a respite of 90 days to correct problems and avoid lawsuits. This change in the law would encourage voluntarily compliance with the ADA while preventing unnecessary litigation that is financially devastating to small business owners.

About the Author
:
Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.

9 comments:

Honest John said...

After reading your recommendations on the ballot Props. I was pleased to see that we are in agreement on all the initiatives.Best of Luck in all your endeavors.Honest John

Anonymous said...

bottom line, without these lawsuits, there would be more discrimination. the legislature intended that this be the method of enforcement. most businesses are not in compliance even though the law is twenty years old.

its not lawsuit abuse, it is a fight against rampant discrimination which pervades our society. you cant throw stones when you live in a glass house.

Carl Starrett said...

The last comment is complete nonsense. Has our society truly reached the point where it is acceptable to file a lawsuit without even trying to end the alleged discrimination through negotiations? I have never met a landlord or business owner that was intentionally out of compliance with the ADA. Every client that I've represented would have been willing to make the changes without a lawsuit. This approach of "shoot first and ask questions later" is simply done to generate a monetary settlement for the attorney and the professional plaintiff that hired them.

In all of the ADA cases I've defending, the attorney accepted the monetary settlement and I never heard from them again. Not once has the attorney ever followed up to make sure that the agreed upon access improvements were ever made.

That is a shakedown lawsuit, pure and simple.

Anonymous said...

I am a wheelchair use and have encountered multiple places that do not have a disabled parking. Lawsuits are the only way that will change the way a business thinks. I am tired of going places with my family and I can't even find disabled parking. WAKEUP the law is 20 years old.

Carl Starrett said...

I typically don't allow anonymous comments on blogs, but I assume that the previous comment was either made by Mr. Pinnock or San Diego attorney Amy Vandeveld. San Diego area residents may remember Ms. Vandeveld as the attorney to sued to stopped the Super Bowl over ADA compliance issues.

I understand why ADA attorneys get some defensive about requiring a demand letter before a lawsuit would be filed. The reality is that their business would dry up and the professional plaintiffs they hire would need to find another way to make a living.

I have yet to see a single instance of a property owner that was intentionally out of compliance with the ADA. Every owner that I have represented gladly would have made the necessary changes without a lawsuit. And in every ADA case that I've ever settled, I've never seen the opposing attorney follow up to see if the repairs were actually made. That says a lot to me about the real reason for these lawsuits.

Jennifer blanchard said...

I was recently, intentionally ,with my service dog , hit by a car. I was trying to put his harness on in an empty parking space when a man started pulling into the spot. I looked up and raised my arms and yelled "my dog your going to hit us". The man, in his late 70's ,looked right at me and said "I don 't care". He continued into the spot and hit my service dog. I shouted again " your hitting my dog" and he hit us again. It was only 2 miles an hour but still, he intentionally did this. Being disabled I had all I could do to get us onto the curb before the man ran us over. I called the police, took the dog immediately to the vet, which showed a laceration in his mouth. On thanksgiving I ended up in the Emergency Room with a swollen hand from the incident. The news agency channel 10 interviewed me and then said " the man denies the whole thing so we can't run it". Did they think he was going to say anything different. News stories happen all the time with conflicting reports. The police won't take this investigation further because "we lack the resources" and since the news story did not air people with possible information have no idea what they possibly saw. The police also said they don't have time to get video surveillance from the surrounding stores. Why is this not being per sued more aggressively ? Do people with disabilities mean less to San Diego ? If anyone wants more information or can help in some way please let me know. This man needed that parking space so badly that he hit my service dog two times. If it had been somebodies baby carriage, would that be better news.

Service dog said...

You cant throw stones when you live in a glass house.In all of the ADA cases I've defending, the attorney accepted the monetary settlement and I never heard from them again. Not once has the attorney ever followed up to make sure that the agreed upon access improvements were ever made.I have yet to see a single instance of a property owner that was intentionally out of compliance with the ADA. Every owner that I have represented gladly would have made the necessary changes without a lawsuit. And in every ADA case that I've ever settled, I've never seen the opposing attorney follow up to see if the repairs were actually made. I was trying to put his harness on in an empty parking space when a man started pulling into the spot. Did they think he was going to say anything different. News stories happen all the time with conflicting reports.

Carl Starrett said...

My experience has been the same. Most of my practice is now consumer bankruptcy and I don't do much ADA litigation anymore. However, the attorneys who file the cases never follow up to see if the repairs have been made. I think there should be a "safe harbor" clause requiring notice to the property own to get the fixes made.

If the property remains willfully out of compliance after receiving notice, then they will get no sympathy from me.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't each city inspect for ADA compliance before it issues a business license?