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Lawsuits anger businesses
San Diego UNION ^ | April 5, 2006 | Anne Krueger

Posted on 04/05/2006 6:46:01 AM PDT by radar101

The lawsuits the shop owners have received by mail or hand delivery in the past two weeks contain virtually identical claims that their businesses are not hospitable to disabled people. In a letter accompanying the lawsuits, Pinnock offers each owner the option of settling by correcting the problems and paying him $10,500.

The owners are outraged, and some say they'll fight back. “He's picked the wrong person to mess with,” said Mike McKany, owner of Alpine Liquor.

McKany and others are banding together to figure out how to deal with the lawsuits. The Alpine Chamber of Commerce is holding a lunch meeting tomorrow to discuss the issue. Attorney David Dow and Andy Kotner, president of San Diego Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, will be speaking.

Pinnock, for his part, is not talking. A woman who answered the phone at his office said Pinnock will not be making any comments.

Pinnock's lawsuits against the Alpine businesses follow a barrage of similar cases in Julian late last year. He sent letters to 67 business owners in the historic town claiming noncompliance with state and federal laws and threatening lawsuits. He demanded between $2,500 and $4,000 in attorney's fees.

Some Julian business owners vowed to fight, while others settled for a few hundred dollars.

Attorney James Mason, who is representing 35 of the owners, said many of his clients already have taken steps such as putting up signs or training employees on how to deal with disabled customers.

“They're well on their way to implementing the access changes that are readily achievable,” he said.

In an interview then, Pinnock said he decided to do a mass mailing in Julian because filing individual lawsuits wasn't correcting the accessibility problems fast enough.

He said that he was working within the framework of the law, and that it was not unethical for him to demand fees for his work.

“All lawyers recover fees and damages. If the public doesn't like that, take it up with the lawmakers. I only apply the law,” he said.

The Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990, a sweeping piece of legislation designed to provide equal access for more than 54 million Americans with disabilities.

Pinnock, who has cerebral palsy and must use a wheelchair, has been using the hammer of the ADA to file lawsuits against businesses around the county since he became a lawyer in 1991.

His tactics may be controversial, but there's no debating the importance of improving access for disabled people, said William Stothers, deputy director of The Center for an Accessible Society, a San Diego nonprofit founded in 1998.

“People in the community, in the disability rights community, are eager for establishments that do business with the public to be accessible so they can conduct business like everyone else,” Stothers said.

He added that it's hard to be sympathetic to businesses that don't take advantage of the wealth of information out there – much of it free – on how to comply with the law.

McKany, who's run Alpine Liquor for 12 years, said he doesn't deserve Pinnock's scrutiny. He said he's met all ADA requirements since California Lottery officials came through two years ago to ensure he was following the law, a requirement to sell lottery tickets.

Pinnock claimed in his lawsuit that McKany's store has no handicapped parking, but McKany pointed out the spot marked with blue paint in his parking lot. The suit said the store's restroom is inaccessible to disabled people, but McKany said he doesn't have a public restroom.

“I really don't know what his beef is,” McKany said.

William Lepetri, owner of Alpine Fence, said he painted a new handicapped parking spot in front of his business after getting Pinnock's lawsuit. He'd had a designated spot before, he said, but he'd recently repaved his parking lot and hadn't had a chance to paint the spot blue.

He said employees see most customers at their homes, and he rarely has many cars in his parking lot.

“Whether or not there is paint on the ground, the guy can drive straight up and go right up to the door,” Lepetri said.

Bobby Baldwin, co-owner of The Biker Shack on Alpine Boulevard, said he doesn't get many disabled customers interested in buying Harley-Davidson motorcycles. But he disputed claims made in Pinnock's suit that his store does not comply with ADA requirements.

Baldwin said he'll be attending the Chamber of Commerce meeting to help him decide what to do.

“Stuff like this is running businesses out,” he said. “Somebody just found a loophole in the system. It's not about handicapped people. It's about somebody making money.”

Anne Krueger: (619) 593-4962; anne.krueger@uniontrib.com


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Government; Philosophy; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: attorneys; disabilities; legalabuse; torts

1 posted on 04/05/2006 6:46:04 AM PDT by radar101
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To: radar101

Why not, this kind of extortion works for the recording industry - why wouldn't every greedy person or company with a cause copy them?


2 posted on 04/05/2006 6:50:16 AM PDT by gondramB (Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's.)
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To: gondramB

I guess this proves that "Sense & Disability" are mutually-exclusive.


3 posted on 04/05/2006 6:54:22 AM PDT by ExcursionGuy84 ("Jesus, Your Love takes my breath away.")
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To: radar101

"Pinnock offers each owner the option of settling by correcting the problems and paying him $10,500."



Why don't the shop owners band together and file a class action against the guy?


4 posted on 04/05/2006 6:55:09 AM PDT by Brilliant
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To: radar101

I have trouble feeling sympathetic towards ambulance chasers, even if they are confined to a wheelchair.


5 posted on 04/05/2006 6:56:54 AM PDT by JamesP81 (Ignorance of the 10th Amendment should disqualify a person from holding office or being a teacher)
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To: radar101

$hakedown. I remember Clint Eastwood fighting such a suit back in 2000 or so. He was pushing for an ADA Notification Act to allow businesses time to correct problems before being sued. I guess that legislation never got very far.


6 posted on 04/05/2006 6:58:24 AM PDT by FoxInSocks
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To: gondramB

Jesse Jackson has been dining out on this type of extortion for decades.


7 posted on 04/05/2006 6:59:48 AM PDT by OldFriend (AMERICA WOULD NOT BE THE LAND OF THE FREE IF IT WERE NOT ALSO THE HOME OF THE BRAVE)
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To: radar101

Ambulance chasing scumbag. Typical.


8 posted on 04/05/2006 6:59:55 AM PDT by pissant
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To: radar101
“All lawyers recover fees and damages. If the public doesn't like that, take it up with the lawmakers. I only apply the law,” he said.

This alone should serve as reason to disallow lawyers from serving as legislators. They are uniquely able to craft legislation which directly benefits them personally.

9 posted on 04/05/2006 7:02:31 AM PDT by Sgt_Schultze
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To: radar101

Lawyers are scum.


10 posted on 04/05/2006 7:03:28 AM PDT by Sunshine Sister
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To: radar101

California is self destructing.


11 posted on 04/05/2006 7:06:36 AM PDT by Tribune7
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To: radar101

Most laws written in this country are written by lawyers in such a way as to benefit other lawyers. The law should have exempted small businesses that wouldn't be able to comply with the law financially. If every business had to comply with every law that's passed or face a lawsuit, they would all go bankrupt.


12 posted on 04/05/2006 7:10:58 AM PDT by winner3000
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To: radar101

If there's another liquor store in the same region - WITH ACCESS - these idiots don't have a case against the business.

Call a good lawyer.


13 posted on 04/05/2006 7:15:27 AM PDT by The Final Harvest (Democrats/Old Media: "controversy, crap and confusion" -- Amen!)
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