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ADA action crippling business
Serial litigator targeting at least 21 Manteca businesses
An ADA lawsuit with the past two years cost Sam Singh of Save on Gas $12,000. - photo by HIME ROMERO/ The Bulletin

Manteca jobs are on the line.

Sales tax crucial to paying for police and fire is in jeopardy.

It’s all because Carmichael-based attorney Scott Johnson — a serial lawsuit filer who has filed more than 3,000 lawsuits contending California businesses are violating his civil rights be being out-of-conformance with American with Disabilities Act regulations — has as many as 21 legal actions pending against Manteca merchants.

One of them is Janice Ward of The Hair Company at 510 W. Yosemite Ave.

Johnson drove 64 miles from his home in Carmichael to the Manteca hair stylist firm apparently for a haircut. A quadriplegic, contends he found seven ADA violations at The Hair Company he believes justifies him filing a suit seeking $68,000 in punitive damages.

Ward said once the cost of correcting the ADA issues that Johnson alluded to in his civil rights suit filed in federal court in San Diego the tab would easily top $100,000.

She can’t afford either the lawsuit or the ADA improvements. That means The Hair Company may end up having to shut down and eight people would be without jobs in a community that is still suffering from double digit unemployment.

Ward, by the way, has numerous clients that are handicapped. She has never received a single complaint from them about accommodations. But then again most travel just a couple miles to get their hair done.

Door hard to open

& chair was in the way

It’s not much better for Sam Guedoir of Century Furniture at the heart of Manteca on the southwest corner of Main Street and Yosemite Avenue. He’s being sued for $40,000 in damages.

“In 19 years I’ve never had one complaint from a handicapped customer,” Guedoir said.

The ADA complaints against Century Furniture include his door “being too hard to push open” and the fact a chair for same impeded his wheelchair progress.

“No customer, not even handicapped costumers, has complained about the door being too hard to open,” Guedoir said.

But it is the chair that’s really got Guedoir wondering why state and federal officials haven’t tried to rein in ADA lawsuit abuse.

Guedoir along with his two employees and wife have never recalled seeing Johnson in their store. That’s plausible as TV stations have reported Johnson will often send his assistants who appeared to be able bodied women to check out stores that he sues.

That side, Guedoir can’t believe he’s being sued because a chair at a dining set was pulled out too far into the aisle.

“Customers pull out chairs all the time to sit down and try them out,” Guedoir said. “What am I supposed to do? Hire someone to follow customers around and push chairs back in as soon as they get up?”

Guedoir said based on the lawsuit he is out of compliance whenever he moves a coffee table so a handicapped customer can try out a sofa or an armchair.

“By pulling the coffee table out temporarily I’m in violation if another handicapped person comes into the store,” Guedoir said.

And if you doubt Johnson doesn’t succeed at getting money, just ask Sam Singh of Save on Gas & Liquor at 420 W. Yosemite Ave.

Lawsuit cost Manteca

merchant $12,000

Less than two years ago Johnson slapped a lawsuit against him for an ADA violation. His handicapped parking space’s dimensions as outlined in blue paint were not large enough to accommodate a van within the boundaries. He also was missing a sign that noted it was a handicapped zone and violators would be subject to being towed and/or a $250 fine.

Singh had to pay Johnson $6,000. And although Johnson didn’t require as part of his settlement that the non-ADA compliant handicapped space be redone to accommodate vans, Singh went ahead and did that hoping to avoid another lawsuit. But the time the payment, cost of the changes and legal costs were taken into account it has cost him $12,000.

The cost forced him to cut back employee hours to stay afloat.

He noted he fared better than the Squeeze In — a small hamburger place in downtown Sacramento. Because of the cost of Johnson’s lawsuit that business had to let two employees go

Among the other businesses being targeted according to information supplied by the City of Manteca that ahs been fielding complaints  are Chubby’s Mangy Moose, DeVega Brothers, Manteca Ford, Frank Guinta, Anderson’s Bike & Mower, and Bedquarters to name a few.

Ward noted small businesses like hers are in danger of going out of business because of the lawsuits.

Besides jobs being in jeopardy, if small businesses shut down it will cost the city sales tax. Typically a small independent has station such as Singh’s generates $70,000 in sales tax while a typical Manteca furniture store generates $100,000 in sales taxes.

A handful of Manteca merchants gathered Sunday at the home of Lucille Harris — a longtime crusader against lawsuit abuse who along with her late husband out everything they owned on the line to fight against false legal claims a number of years back — to discuss a strategy to counter the legal proceedings in a bid to stay in business.

They may try to ban together to hire one attorney to reduce legal costs and create more of as focused response. They also plan to circulate petitions against lawsuit abuse and hope to enlist the support of Manteca elected leaders as well as the Manteca Chamber of Commerce.

Free ADA workshop

on Wednesday to educate

merchants, property owners

They also noted that no business is immune from lawsuits as little deference is given if you have an older building or even if it is a newer cone that was in compliance with ADA laws on the books when it was built.

That is why they are pushing for merchants and owners of commercial property to attend a free workshop dubbed “ADA Basics for Businesses” on Wednesday, May 21, from 10 to 11 a.m. in the council chambers at the Manteca Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St. It is being staged by the City of Manteca Building Safety Division and Manteca Chamber of Commerce.

There were 947 ADA-related lawsuits filed in California last year with 513 of them in the north state and Central Valley. A San Diego law firm that specializes in disability-access issues on behalf of businesses has indicated the average settlement for ADA lawsuits is $45,000. That’s on top of the money spent to bring a business into ADA compliance.

The workshop Wednesday is being conducted by Dan Kaiser. He’s president of Access Services Plus.

Topics that will be covered include:

*What ADA entails.

*Disability access requirements for existing buildings.

*The basics of disabled access.

*How State Senate Bill 1186 dealing with ADA compliance affects businesses.

*Tax incentives for businesses making ADA improvements.

*California accessibility regulations that are in some cases are more stringent and far-reaching than federal ADA requirements.

*Whether existing buildings are exempt for new ADA regulations.

*When is a business required to have an accessible ADA restroom.

*Protecting your business from ADA-related lawsuits.

*Options if your business is slapped with an ADA-related lawsuit.

To register for the free workshop email or phone 209.456.8562.