Bob Casalengo sat sipping a cup of ice water at a table at Java Stop, staring down at a manila folder full of court documents that is at least two inches thick.
The owner of the coffee shop sighed and shook his head, wondering how he got involved with the notorious, disabled Sacramento-area lawyer Scott Johnson.
The attorney is currently suing Casalengo because he believes the Java Stop owner and founder is out of compliance with sections of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines.
In a court document filed on May 19, Johnson, a quadriplegic since 1981, claims he actually visited Java Stop twice in the past year — once on March 23 and once on April 14. He also claims he attempted to visit the coffee shop two more times but was "deterred" because of "architectural barriers" that directly inhibited his mobility.
These barriers include a lack of accessible restrooms and a van-accessible disabled parking space. In court documents, Johnson said it "caused him to experience difficulty, discomfort and embarrassment ... "
The Java Stop is not the only business in Lodi that Johnson has slapped with a lawsuit. Paul's Safe/Lock and Key and Brodie Jayne's Photography received letters from Johnson earlier this year.
Johnson has filed more than 1,000 disability-related lawsuits since 2003.
According to court documents, Johnson stated he began to notify Casalengo he was out of compliance with ADA regulations starting in April 2010, before he actually visited the businesses to document violations.
Court documents stated that Johnson was never contacted by Casalengo to try to resolve any issues surrounding the Java Stop's wheelchair accessibility.
But Casalengo said he has never met or even seen Johnson, despite the fact that among his stacks of court documents are pictures Johnson was able to provide of Java Stop. The photos include the parking lot where Johnson states in court documents "no disabled parking exists."
"I do know that we would go out of our way to help anyone with a handicap," Casalengo said. "We have even trained our employees to go out and take orders from those who are handicapped so that they can enjoy their cup of coffee comfortably."
Casalengo said he never received any letter from Johnson about needing to bring the coffee shop up to code.
According to his lawyer, Michael Welsh, Casalengo has not broken any law nor is his shop out of compliance with ADA regulations or ADA accessbility guidelines.
Johnson followed procedure with other Lodi businesses he has targeted.
Paul's Safe/Lock & Key Service on North Church Street and Brodie Jayne's Photography are the most recent businesses in Lodi that Johnson has notified regarding alleged violations of his civil rights by not being completely ADA-accessible.
Paul Taormina of Paul's Safe/Lock & Key Service was sued in May and said his business is just one of a number of businesses in Lodi that have faced or are currently dealing with lawsuits from Johnson.
"Rather than fight it, I might as well just do my part and get my stuff done," Taormina said. "I am putting in a ramp and putting signs up in parking places, and I guess I am going to have to pay. But I am definitely not the only one in town who is dealing with this right now."
Brodie Sisneros, co-owner of Brodie Jayne Photography, received a letter in January from Johnson notifying her that her shop was not in compliance with handicap laws.
However, Sisneros said Johnson failed to look behind her store, where there was a ramp that allowed handicapped individuals access to her building.
She now has a sign in her front window about handicap access in the rear, and she has not heard from Johnson since.
City spokesman Jeff Hood said these types of lawsuits are not new, and the city has used a lot of taxpayer dollars to meet ADA requirements.
"We have made our staff available to businesses who have been approached by potential plaintiffs and advised them on steps they can take to meet federal regulations," Hood said. "People need to comply with the laws, and (ADA laws) are not new."
Lodi is currently in the midst of a federal ADA lawsuit. Former Tokay High School student Jeremy Hixson filed a suit because the Grape Bowl was not accessible during his graduation in 2009. The city has since made ADA upgrades.
With a court date on Aug. 2, Casalengo said he is not worried about the lawsuit, and his lawyer even knocked off $1,000 from his fee because he said Casalengo had "nothing to fear."
"We have never had a complaint, and we have had handicapped customers in the past," Casalengo said. "We have been told we are in compliance, and I certainly hope this blows over."
Contact Katie Nelson at email@example.com.