Your Americans with Disabilities Act at Work
From the SF Weekly, an aggravating tale of disability access laws providing lawyers with a cheap means of making money, harassing small business, and not really making anyone's life much better. The story stars San Fran attorney Thomas Frankovich and his wheelchair-using client Craig Yates:
Frankovich…has made a legal practice of suing places that his wheelchair-using proxies find in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Frankovich's most frequent San Francisco flier, Yates, has had a recent two-wheeled field day in the Mission. In addition to the building that houses Chile Lindo, he's filed suit against Cafe Gratitude, Elsy's Pupuseria, Mikado Sushi, Pete's Bar-B-Q, and Balompie Cafe. Yates has also targeted the Richmond District's Pot De Pho Noodle House and Pho Clement Restaurant, West Portal's Cafe For All Seasons, and Nob Hill's Pizza Pino, among many, many others.
[Chile Lindo owner Paula] Tejeda says she got a letter from Yates earlier this year saying he couldn't enter her restaurant and suggesting she make changes to put her in compliance with the law, but she tore it up in disgust. Chile Lindo is a take-out restaurant, not a sit-down, she says, and they've always accomodated Yates: "He comes to the front door and we hand him an empanada," Tejeda says. "Where's a wheelchair going to fit in there? If you're too fat, you won't fit in there."….
"It's going to be like Patton on his way to Berlin," Frankovich says of restaurants who don't correct their wrongs before he files suit. "If you don't go ahead and get it taken care of, Big Bertha is going to level the guns and clear the decks." Yes, that was what he said. Verbatim.
Frankovich says he has no patience for the "mom-and-pop crap" as an excuse to not be complaint with ADA requirements that have been in effect since 1990….
Frankovich says often, as in the case of Chile Lindo, he doesn't sue the restaurant if it appears they don't make much money. He instead goes after the building's landlords, although he says that in "95 percent" of cases, the landlords will then file suit on the restaurants, saying it's their problem to get compliant with the law.
The State Bar charged Frankovich in 2008 with two disciplinary charges for allegations of extorting settlements, seeking to mislead a judge, and committing acts of moral turpitude. Yet the State Bar Court cleared Frankovich, only finding him guilty of an unrelated matter of improperly communicating with a represented party in a foreign jurisdiction…..
But Tejeda says lawyers like Frankovich abuse the spirit of disability law. "It's really disgusting. When people are having such a hard time running their businesses nobody needs this added stress. It is clearly not a case where someone with a disability has been discriminated [against], but rather it's a way of milking a law that was put in place to benefit the handicapped community. These people have no compassion for the people they say they represent; rather they're just a mafia."
The story ends with Yates, with his lawsuit against them in process, returning to Chile Lindo to buy more empanadas, which he calls "muffins." An angry Tejada completed the sale, but doesn't want anymore of Yates' business.