Gathered on the corner by the Lodi Post Office, roughly 40 business owners from in and around Lodi braved the morning winds Thursday to protest the rising number of lawsuits regarding ADA compliance.
The business owners said they are fed up with having to pay thousands of dollars in attorney fees for litigants who are suing them for not being up-to-date on codes set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Those fees, they said, are on top of the money they spend to fix their stores and sidewalks to comply with the most current regulations.
Led by Todd Scott, executive director of the California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, also known as CALA, the rally in Lodi was the kick-off event of the campaign against litigants such as Sacramento-based attorney Scott Johnson and Bay Area resident George Louie, who have sued dozens of businesses in Lodi in the past year.
CALA, a nonprofit organization based in Sacramento, works to help California residents understand the cost and consequences of lawsuit abuse, Scott said.
“People talk about how taxes and regulations impact their income,” he said. “Lawsuit abuse is far more costly, and Lodi, which is a great smaller city, has also become prime pickings for ADA lawsuits.”
Scott added that it is not just small businesses that are being hit with ADA lawsuits.
The city of Lodi is also facing a potential lawsuit filed by Louie on Sept. 12, 2011.
In his claim, Louie listed 39 intersections where he said he found a total of 123 violations in Lodi.
He is asking for $492,000, or $4,000 for each of the 123 violations.
And while many are upset by the lawsuits, Lodi attorney Russell Humphrey said the business owners have no right to complain.
They are the ones out of compliance with the law that was set over 20 years ago, he said, and the lawsuits are legal, no matter how cumbersome they may be.
Humphrey said the law very clearly states that in California, businesses cannot be open to the public if disabled individuals cannot enter.
Humphrey is currently representing a client who is suing businesses in Lockeford for being out of compliance with ADA regulations, including the business of former Lodi mayor James McCarty, who owns Town and Country Liquor and Deli.
“Business owners need to quit complaining about being sued and instead use their money to follow the law rather than having to spend it on attorneys,” he said.
Those in attendance at Thursday’s rally included McCarty, Java Stop owner Bob Casalegno and Congressional candidate Ricky Gill.
McCarty and Gill both said that not only are the lawsuits costing people money, they are also costing jobs.
“We need to make more noise,” McCarty said. “We need to send a message that this is a problem and that others need to take notice.”
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.