By Jim Walsh | East Valley Tribune
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge on Friday tossed out hundreds of cases filed against businesses in the East Valley and throughout the metro area that accused them of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and its state counterpart.
Judge David Talamante delivered a blow to the Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities Foundation, which deluged the courts with more than 1,000 boilerplate lawsuits against businesses, with Mesa being one obvious target.
“The trial court’s dismissal of over 1700 lawsuits alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) is a major victory for business and property owners in Arizona. Over the past year, AID filed thousands of “drive-by” lawsuits alleging businesses and properties were in violation of the ADA. Many of the nearly identical “cookie-cutter” lawsuits alleged violations of nothing more than a parking sign fastened to a pole a few inches higher than the height prescribed by the ADA, or a missing “van accessible” sign. While alleged violations were usually fixed quickly for less than $200, the plaintiff, Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities (“AID”), sued and attempted to extract anywhere from $3,000 to $7,500 from owners as a settlement in exchange for dismissal of the lawsuit. Many owners agreed to pay AID, not because they believed it was fair, but because they did not wish to incur thousands of dollars in attorneys fees in defending themselves.
After the Attorney General’s Office intervened last year, the trial court consolidated over 1700 pending cases AID had filed and ordered that AID discontinue filing any more cases until the court could determine whether the pending cases should be dismissed (AID informed the court it had hundreds of more lawsuits ready to file). While the court has not yet published its ruling, it has now determined that AID cannot prevail in its lawsuits and has therefore dismissed them. In a final blow to AID, the court also awarded all of the owners their attorneys fees and costs incurred in the proceedings.
It is anticipated that AID will appeal the trial court’s ruling.”