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A new wave of Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuits filed by Florida plaintiffs’ attorneys is moving northward and westward to several states, while California district and appellate courts grapple with plaintiffs and lawyers behind hundreds of ADA claims. Since September, Florida lawyers from three firms have filed 66 cases in Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, New York and Ohio. The plaintiffs � which can be individuals, advocacy groups or a combination of the two � typically scout a geographic area for technical violations of the law and file a series of cases, said defense attorney Brian Blair, a partner in Baker Hostetler’s Orlando, Fla., office. Blair said he’s recently been hired by clients to defend cases in Georgia, New York and Ohio. The lawsuits allege discrimination based on lack of ADA compliance with regulations involving building and access features such as parking, entrance and travel path access, as well as access to restrooms and goods and services inside a facility. They seek injunctive relief to force the companies to fix the problems, along with attorney fees, costs and litigation expenses. “They look for de minimus violations to target these businesses,” Blair said. “It’s a law with good intent that has been abused.” ‘Frustration level’ rises Plaintiffs’ lawyers say their cases involve valid claims and that business owners are simply shirking compliance with a federal law that has been on the books for 17 years. Lawrence Fuller, whose North Miami, Fla.-based firm Fuller, Fuller & Associates has filed 31 such cases in all five of the states since last September, said filings are up because plaintiffs are increasingly perturbed by the lack of compliance across many types of businesses. “The frustration level increases because the defendants have had so much time to comply with the law,” Fuller said. Guy M. Shir of Kahan Shir in Boca Raton, Fla., whose firm represents plaintiffs in 29 new ADA cases filed in Georgia and Ohio since September, said the firm is looking into possible suits in other jurisdictions. “We don’t limit ourselves to a certain state,” Shir said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a lot of local counsel in Georgia and Ohio assisting the disabled.” Many cases settle, and attorney fees and costs are frequently part of the bargain since the law allows plaintiffs to recover those if they prevail in a case, said Bill Pinto, an associate at Atlanta-based Elarbee, Thompson, Sapp & Wilson. Wilson is a defense attorney on a pending case in Georgia. Disabled Patriots of America Inc. v. Najjar Holdings LLC, No. 06-cv-02270 (N.D. Ga.). “Someone five, six or seven years ago must have held a CLE [program] on these types of suits, informing the plaintiffs’ bar that this is an option for you if you want to build a niche for yourself,” Pinto said. California hotbed California has also been a hotbed of cases for years, particularly since plaintiffs can collect damages for violations under state laws that protect the disabled and their civil rights, Blair said. Recent California court rulings have addressed the validity of cases and the standing of prolific ADA plaintiffs. On March 23, a California federal judge sanctioned plaintiffs’ attorney Theodore Pinnock with a $15,213 fine and an order to take four hours of legal ethics and professional responsibility classes for filing a frivolous case against a store that was no longer in business. Association of Women with Disabilities Advocating Access v. Marcos Mouet, No. 06- 02240 (S.D. Calif.). Pinnock’s San Diego-based firm, Pinnock & Wakefield, said Pinnock wasn’t giving interviews. Meanwhile, a California plaintiff behind hundreds of Americans With Disabilities Act cases was vindicated in March when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling in favor of a restaurant the plaintiff had sued for ADA violations. Noting “uncontradicted evidence” that the restaurant had violated ADA provisions, the appeals court reversed the lower court decision denying plaintiff Jarek Molski a new trial. Jarek Molski v. M.J. Cable Inc., No. 05-55347 (9th Cir.). The appeals court also rejected the lower court’s reasoning that the jury may have viewed Molski as a business because of his ADA litigation history � and not an individual who can seek ADA protections under the law. Molski, who was declared a vexatious litigant in a separate court case that was later dismissed, is also appealing that case and others to the 9th Circuit. Jarek Molski v. Evergreen Dynasty, No. 05-56452 (9th Cir.).

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