Could Hundreds of ADA Lawsuits in San Francisco Be Fraudulent?

Could Hundreds of ADA Lawsuits in San Francisco Be Fraudulent?

18 October 2022 By Admin

It’s no secret that California has become something of a hotbed for frivolous drive-by ADA lawsuits in recent years. Still, a closer look at one serial filer may have uncovered hundreds of fraudulent ADA lawsuits in the Bay Area. This has called into question the validity of almost 850 lawsuits filed by this individual and once again highlights the importance of small businesses working with an ADA construction specialist to help them avoid these frivolous drive-by ADA lawsuits.

Andres Gomez of Miami, Florida, has filed multiple ADA lawsuits against hundreds of small businesses across the Bay Area. Those targeted include wineries and restaurants. One of his more frequent complaints is that the business websites are not compliant with accessibility standards, meaning he is unable to use them. Gomez claims to need screen-reader technology because he has a visual impairment. However, one of his targets, the Los Angeles-based Fast Toys Club, claims to have evidence that Mr. Gomez has been faking, or at least heavily exaggerating, his visual impairment!

In response to Mr. Gomez’s lawsuit, Fast Toys Club instructed their legal team to investigate his claims. This resulted in surveillance footage that showed him walking the streets and entering a building in ways that seemed to contradict his own description of his visual impairment. Mr. Gomez argues that just because he doesn’t appear to be disabled doesn’t mean he is not. However, the video details several actions that do not fit Mr. Gomez’s description of his visual impairment. For example, he is seen browsing books and magazines in a shop unassisted and using a standard cellphone to browse the internet with no evidence of a screen reader. He also claimed to need handrails to help him navigate stairs safely due to his blindness, but he is seen walking up sets of stairs on several occasions without the use of handrails. The owner of Fast Toys Club has filed for damages of $8512 but says it was never about money for him but rather an opportunity to warn other small business owners of Mr. Gomez’s actions. If it is found that the lawsuit against Fast Toy Club is deemed fraudulent, it brings into question all of the previous lawsuits filed by Mr. Gomez.

Why Target the Bay Area?

One of the key questions is why a man living in Miami, Florida, would be so concerned about accessibility in San Francisco and the surrounding area. The answer is simple. The Federal Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, is designed to ensure disabled people are not treated unfairly and have equal access to all products and services. However, California also has the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which counts every ADA violation as a civil rights violation. This carries minimum damages amount of $4000 per violation. That makes it a very attractive target for individuals seeking to make some quick cash! It is common to target small businesses that are likely to simply settle out of court because it is less expensive than going to trial. It’s an unfortunate situation in that, technically, the businesses being targeted may be guilty of not compiling with the ADA, but at the same time, this drive-by (and click-by) lawsuits are not in the spirit in which the law was intended. The purpose of the ADA is not to punish businesses but to promote equal access for disabled people. Those individuals filing drive-by lawsuits have no interest in improving accessibility; they are only interested in the money.

How Can You Avoid These ADA Lawsuits?

Knowing how individuals are targeting small business owners with these frivolous ADA lawsuits, the big question you likely have is how you can protect your business from becoming a target. The answer is simple. The best defense against any type of ADA lawsuit is to be ADA compliant! The best place to start is to get in touch with an ADA construction specialist to discuss what sort of work needs to be completed to make your property compliant. If there are no violations present, then there can be no lawsuit. Working with an ADA construction specialist can help you identify any potential problem areas and work to remove barriers to accessibility. Some of the most common places to start include parking lots, travel routes, and entrances. It is wise to focus on the exterior barriers that an ADA construction specialist can help you remove first and foremost because drive-by lawsuits address visible violations that can be seen when passing by rather than actually entering the building. However, interior barriers will also need to be addressed, including restrooms, elevators, and signage, among other things.

If you need advice from an ADA construction specialist, why not reach out to Protrk® Construction today? Call 415-912-1142 for more information.

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