A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York slapped a disgraced Florida lawyer with a four-year federal prison term, a $200,000 fine and $640,000 in forfeitures for a crime related to his abuse of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
What had he done? While his official crime is mail fraud, the 68-year-old had made a small fortune basically terrifying small business owners all over New York and Florida through fraudulent ADA lawsuits.
In his filings, the former attorney claimed that his plaintiffs had visited various establishments and were denied service because the businesses were not ADA-compliant. Not only were the two plaintiffs he named in the lawsuit not even his clients, they hadn’t even visited any of the targeted establishments.
ADA abuses are a real issue for small businesses
So-called “drive-by” ADA lawsuits have been a problem for years, and various jurisdictions have tried to rein them in. However, the sort of incident reported above shows that they continue to be a significant issue – especially for small businesses.
The people who engage in these kinds of frivolous suits – like the aforementioned lawyer – often target “Mom and Pop” type businesses, largely because the owners can be more easily scared into a quick settlement. Victims are so afraid that they’ll lose everything – including their homes – that they often pay up without a fight.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what keeps these kinds of scam artists in operation. The only way to stop unwarranted and abusive ADA lawsuits from continuing is to fight back. If your business has been targeted over a supposed failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, find out what defenses are available.