A small group of lawyers, some from outside the state, based on the age and architectural style of New York City, filed a large number of lawsuits on the grounds of violating the US Disability Act.
Lawyers generally do not take action on existing complaints from persons with disabilities.
Instead, they identified local businesses that did not comply with the law, such as bagels shops and delicatessens, and then actively recruited the plaintiffs from disability advocacy groups.
The plaintiff usually charges $500 per action, and each plaintiff can use it multiple times.
At the same time, these lawyers make thousands of dollars because civil rights laws give them the right to charge legal fees for businesses that are not compliant.
This practice has sparked a debate about whether litigation is a commendable effort, as they force businesses to make physical improvements to comply with the Disability Act, or simply an ambulance --
No one is really hurt.
These lawsuits may raise a range of issues: a deli in the West Harlem district, an over-steep ramp without a guardrail, high shelves and narrow passages near the refrigerator;
In a yogurt shop in the theater area, there is no ramp, there is no bathroom door handle that can be opened with a closed fist, and there is exposed hot water drain under the bathroom sink;
There is a flower shop in the Upper East Side, which does not have too high ramps and shelves.
All these proceedings were filed by Ben.
Zion Bradley Weitz is a lawyer in Florida who has a group of people with disabilities who select the plaintiffs from these.
One of them, Todd Chrysler, a man in a wheelchair who lives in the East Side of Manhattan, sued 19 businesses within 16 months --
It includes a Chinese restaurant, a liquor store and a sandwich shop.
The results of these proceedings are almost immediate: Workers grab hammers, install new ramps, lower counters and shelves, and make it easier for people with disabilities to reach businesses.
As a product of the lawsuit, the businesses had to pay him thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Weitz and his colleagues. Mr.
Weitz is leading the charge in court in New York.
He has sued nearly 200 businesses in the state since October 2009, most of them in federal district courts in Manhattan.
He has eight years of experience in bringing these proceedings in Florida, where his practice does not seem to be lagging behind.
Two weeks ago, he filed a lawsuit against four companies in Tampa.
Shopping Center, convenience store, bar and printing factory.
Martin J. , another lawyer.
Long Island Coleman has filed nearly 130 cases in the east side of New York. Mr.
Coleman said he knew the lawsuit had been criticized.
"People went out and said, 'I am angry with the plaintiff,' I saw the same name, 'let's attack the plaintiff's lawyer ',"Coleman said.
"I don't mind, but the law is there. don't deceive yourself.
"As a private lawyer, every single lawsuit I bring up is to make money because it's the way I make a living," he added . ".
"I am no different from other private lawyers in this regard.
"On the basis of a review of the electronic court records, very few, if any, cases enter the trial;
The defendants generally agreed to close the case for the Federal Court at an alarming rate in less than six months.
The lawyers sued through litigation, forcing the difficult and intense walking city, so resistant to change to meet accessibility standards more than 20 years ago.
In doing so, they are part of a national trend: In the past year, under the US Disabled Persons Act, 3,000 similar lawsuits, including more than 300 in New York, this number is more than double that of five years ago.
Most cases involve claims made by non-employees against the business.
Lawmakers and federal judges questioned the practice, arguing that lawyers were only interested in charging legal fees;
They say that lawyers generally do not give businesses the opportunity to remedy the problem until a lawsuit is filed.
Those who defend the lawsuit say it is reasonable to make more corporate compliance.
Since the settlement is always subject to a non-disclosure agreement, it is not possible to calculate the exact amount earned by the attorney in total.
A defense lawyer said his client had paid
Weitz and the lawyers who worked with him paid $6,000 in legal fees.
At this speed, sir.
Weitz will charge more than $600,000 for his 106 cases closed in New York.
Please click on the box to verify that you are not a robot.
The email address is invalid. Please re-enter.
You must select the newsletter you want to subscribe.
View all New York Times newsletters.
The US Disabled Persons Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination by private entities open to the public.
When Congress considered the law, disability advocates wanted to be able to sue for damages.
But Congress allows litigation parties to only seek injunctive relief or court action.
Ordered remedial measures against the issues raised in the proceedings.
As a compromise to the plaintiff with a disability, Congress also charged counsel for the case of discrimination.
Ruth Corker, a law professor at Ohio State University who specializes in disability law, said these lawsuits are an effective law enforcement strategy.
"If a lawyer is not paid, it is really impossible for people to find a lawyer," she said . ".
In Florida, the editorial board, lawmakers and federal judges have been opposed to this practice.
On 2004, Judge Gregory.
In a written opinion in favor of business owners, Presnell of the Orlando federal district court said: "The plaintiff's testimony left a distinct impression, that is, he is only a professional pawn in an ongoing plan to defraud the defendant's lawyer's fees.
"Mark Foley, a former representative of Florida, regularly introduced legislation to amend the US Disabled Persons Act, requiring business owners to receive 90 days notice before being sued.
Similar legislation has not yet been passed. Mr.
Weitz, described on his company's website as an advocate for the disabled community, initially filed a case with a local lawyer in New York, but after he was admitted to the National Bar Association in 2010, he went alone.
He did not call back for comment. Mr. advertising
Use of Mr. Weitz
Kreisler is not unique.
Mr. Zoltan Hirsch, the leg amputee, is represented.
Weitz filed up to 9 proceedings in a single day out of 143 proceedings.
San Diego has filed six lawsuits.
Carl, who is in a wheelchair, sued five companies in Manhattan. Ms.
She said she learned
Weitz's efforts at an advocacy group "disabled people in action" meeting in New York.
"He made a speech about visits and other things," she recalls . ".
"Let's give it a try," she said . " She thought.
"Stop complaining and do something about it.
Asked if she ever visited the business she sued after improvement.
"Unfortunately, no," he said.
"While disability plaintiffs cannot collect damages under the Disability Act, they are entitled to compensation as long as they also file a lawsuit under urban or state human rights laws.
Local business owners say they are often prosecuted without any warning, they say the lawsuit is shaken and they always sign a settlement agreement with strict secrecy requirements.
"All they want is money;
They get the money and then move on to the next target, "said Minghai, a Queens lawyer who defended the business.
"Going out and looking around for a small problem has become a profession. ”Ms.
He disagrees with criticism of Mr Obama's aggressive lawsuit. Weitz.
"He's fighting for what he believes, and if he gets a few bucks, why not? ” she said.
"I feel that whatever he does, I benefit from it, as well as other wheelchair users.
"A version of this article was printed on page A1 of the New York edition on April 17, 2012 under the title: The Disability ACT used by lawyers in proceedings.
Order reprint | today's newspaper | subscribe we are interested in your feedback on this page.
Tell us what you think.