A San Diego attorney has filed nearly 100 lawsuits against small businesses in San Jose, an effort—according to downtown Councilman Sam Liccardo—to shake them down for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“This is an abuse of a well-intended law,” says Liccardo, who will host a workshop tonight to put targeted business owners in touch with legal help to defend themselves. “The law appropriately protects the rights and access of people with disabilities, but like all laws, it can be abused by lawyers who have enough time on their hands.”
The Center for Disability Access, a San Diego law firm, and two plaintiffs are behind 94 lawsuits filed against San Jose businesses since 2012, says Liccardo aide Fred Buzo. A call to the law firm was not immediately returned.
Many of these businesses may have actually violated the federal law requiring physical access for people with disabilities, Liccardo notes. The problem is that these lawsuits often demand settlements, which don’t fix the violations. They just leave businesses with that much less to bring their buildings up to code.
In San Jose, many of the lawsuits this past year centered on retailers and restaurants around downtown and Japantown, Buzo says.