From The New York Times: New York City’s aging architecture is providing attorneys -- some from out of state -- with fodder for lawsuits citing violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
In many cases, the lawyers identify local businesses, such as bagel shops and delis, that are not in compliance with the law, and then aggressively recruit plaintiffs from advocacy groups that cater to disabled people, the newspaper reported.
The plaintiffs typically collect $500 for each lawsuit, and each plaintiff can be used several times over. The lawyers make several thousands of dollars, because the civil rights law entitles them to legal fees from the noncompliant businesses.
The New York Times said the practice has prompted debate about whether the lawsuits are justified because they bring about change – or "simply a form of ambulance-chasing, with no one actually having been injured."
The newspaper identifies the issues claimed in some of the lawsuits, including an overly steep ramp without guardrails, high shelves and a narrowing pathway near the refrigerators at a deli grocery in West Harlem; no ramp, no bathroom doorknob that can be opened with a closed fist and exposed hot water drains under the bathroom sink at a yogurt shop in the theater district; and no ramp and shelves that are too high at a flower shop on the Upper East Side.
All of those suits were filed by Ben-Zion Bradley Weitz, a lawyer based in Florida, who selects plaintiffs from a set group of disabled people.
Lawmakers and federal judges have questioned the practice, contending that the lawyers are interested only in generating legal fees; they say the lawyers typically do not give the businesses a chance to remedy the problem before filing suit.
Those who defend the lawsuits say the means are justified to bring more businesses into compliance.