In the November issue of Habitat, we reported that lawyers have been filing a blizzard of lawsuits against commercial spaces – including many in co-ops and condos – for having inadequate access for people protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). From 2010 to 2017, one lawyer, B. Bradley Weitz, filed 183 disability lawsuits for one client, 78 for another, 64 for a third, plus many, many more, according to a report by an Albany-based advocacy group, the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.
Such serial lawsuits have helped New York State earn the dubious distinction of being the nation’s third worst “judicial hellhole” – behind only Pennsylvania and California – according to a new study compiled by the American Tort Reform Foundation, the New York Post reports. Across the state, according to the report, courts are clogged with lawsuits exploiting the ADA, as well as capricious class-action lawsuits aimed at the food and beverage industries.
“In 2018, 2,338 federal ADA lawsuits were filed in New York, far outpacing the 1,488 claims filed the prior year,” says the document. “Halfway through 2019, New York already had 1,212 ADA accessibility lawsuits, putting it on pace to set another record. New York is second only to California (4,249) in hosting these ADA lawsuits.”
The report also points to a New York Post investigation and the subsequent arrest of disgraced lawyer Stuart Finkelstein, who is facing federal charges for filing hundreds of ADA lawsuits on behalf of people who’d never retained him.
“This is just another example of entrepreneurial attorneys finding a creative outlet through their choices of who to sue over what,” American Tort Reform Foundation President Tiger Joyce said. “They practically make up a problem and then file suit.”
New York’s more entrepreneurial attorneys have taken their abuse of the ADA online, with the state leading the nation in the number of complaints filed against company websites that aren’t compatible with screen-reading software. “Unlike the lawsuits against brick-and-mortar stores, in these cases, serial plaintiffs and their lawyers can search for targets without leaving their desks,” the report says, noting that 1,546 web-accessibility claims were filed in federal courts in 2018.
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