Two more businesses in Lodi have been slapped with lawsuits stating they are not in compliance with state disability regulations, but the man behind the suits may not be legally allowed to do so.
Stockton Auto Glass, Inc. and Cherokee Veterinary Hospital, both on South Cherokee Lane, were given notice in July that George Louie of West Sacramento had filed lawsuits against the businesses because he believed they were not compliant with certain sections of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the state Unruh Act.
Both acts state persons with disabilities are entitled to full and equal accomodations or services at any establishment, be it a theater or a restaurant — anywhere.
According to court documents, Louie patronized both businesses on June 17 and found that the businesses did not have adequate handicap parking spaces, and did not have an adequate warning sign stating those who used the disabled parking spaces who were not disabled would be fined.
Louie, a diabetic who lost his leg as a result of the disease in 1996, is asking for $4,000 in damages from each business, according to court documents.
Louie was not available for comment, despite repeated calls from the News-Sentinel.
But Louie may not be legally allowed to file any suits, said Lodi lawyer Kristi Fluetsch, who is representing Cherokee Veterinary Hospital in the case.
According to Fluetsch, Louie was identified as a “vexatious litigant” by the Contra Costa Superior Court on June 27.
A vexatious litigant is an individual who has filed a large number of cases that were lost because a judge found them to be without merit. A vexatious litigant then chooses to pursue a large number of appeals that are again determined to be without merit.
Fluetsch said the lawsuits against the two businesses will be put on hold until a court judge in San Joaquin County decides whether the lawsuits can move forward.
“This guy is basically trying to extort money during this economic depression,” she said. “Unfortunately, (the business owners) will have to either defend these frivilous lawsuits or succumb to the extortion.”
For Clint Harless, owner of Stockton Auto Glass, Inc., the lawsuit came out of nowhere.
Harless said he has never seen or spoken to Louie and that Louie has never visited his business nor the veterinary hospital that is also being sued.
Once Harless found out he was being sued, he said within a week he made all the corrections necessary to make sure he was ADA compliant.
However, rather than compromising or dropping the suit, Harless said Louie has refused to speak to anyone, including Harless’s lawyer in Lafayette.
But Louie has been in contact with Fluetsch.
Fluetsch said Louie recently sent her settlement papers, which included demands that each business pay him the specified $4,000.
Fluetsch said if Louie were acting “in the spirit of the law,” he would be more concerned about making sure businesses were ADA compliant rather than receiving money.
“If he weren’t in it just for the money, he would be pleased to see that the problems were resolved,” she said. “But he was clear that the two lawsuits required payments whether or not the originally discovered problems were resolved.”
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.