An attorney with Larkin, Axelrod, Ingrassia & Tetenbaum, an Orange County law firm that was sued for refusing to allow a client to bring her service dog into its office, has said that it did not intend to discriminate against the client and that one of its employees acted against firm policy in refusing to allow the dog inside.
The lawsuit, Klejmont v. Larkin Axelrod Ingrassia & Tetenbaum, 11-cv-08003, was filed in the federal court in White Plains on Tuesday by the Southern District U.S. Attorney on behalf of Lauren Klejmont, who retained the firm to represent her in a personal injury action (NYLJ, Nov. 9). It also names one of the firm’s partners, John Ingrassia, as a defendant.
The suit alleges that Mr. Ingrassia and Gerald J. Marino, a partner who left the firm earlier this year, repeatedly refused to allow Ms. Klejmont to bring her dog into the office, in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, despite Mr. Ingrassia’s written promise that the dog, a German shepherd named Reicha, would be accommodated.
Ms. Klejmont claimed in her suit that she was told that Reicha was not permitted in Mr. Ingrassia’s office because of his allergies, but the lawyer said he would arrange to hold future meetings in a different room.
James Burke, a lawyer at Larkin Axelrod, said that the firm’s policy was to accommodate disabilities, as shown by Mr. Ingrassia’s written promise.
“The subsequent refusal by an employee of the firm to meet with Ms. Klejmont and her dog in our office was in contravention of the firm’s stated policy, was motivated by the employee’s personal dog phobia, and is not properly attributable to the firm,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Burke said that after the matter was called to the firm’s attention, Ms. Klejmont “was invited to bring her dog to a meeting in the firm’s office. She unfortunately declined to accept the offer. While the firm regrets that its efforts to repair the relationship with Ms. Klejmont were unsuccessful, it acted in good faith to protect and preserve her legal rights.”
Mr. Burke declined in an interview to say which employee had the dog phobia.
The firm has 20 days from the filing of the suit to file an answer.
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