After losing a leg to diabetes in 1996, George Louie’s life – and life purpose – changed. While navigating his new life as a physically disabled person, he began to see that the disability systems and allowances, such as handicap accessible parking and building entrances, were severely lacking in the majority of California cities. Louie decided to take it on himself to make a change.
Louie, a veteran of the U.S. military who lives in Sacramento, took action, forming an organization called Americans With Disabilities Advocates in 1999. The mission of the organization, Louie says, is to file lawsuits against companies in California and throughout the country who commit violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Under the ADA, companies that commit violations of the federal disability law are subject to a fine of up to $4,000. For big companies, this is usually a mere drop in the hat. The fine is paid, the disabled complainant may be paid off, and the problem does not get fixed.
So Louie, who is believed to have filed several thousands of lawsuits since his organization’s formation 12 years ago, may be filling a real need for people with disabilities in California. However, the businesses who are the targets of his suits usually do not see it that way.
“These are local small businesses and this sort of thing is huge in a struggling economy,” says Hussein Saffouri, an attorney who is defending several defendant businesses in Vallejo, California. “And he just comes along and tries to suck them dry.”
But Louie claims that he does not target small businesses, only large companies with the means to pay. “We are not suing the moms and pops or little business people barely making a living,” he said. “We are pounding the companies listed on the NASDAQ.”
What do you think? Should Louie’s method of “vexatious litigation” be permitted?
Source: The Times-Herald, “Disabled veteran files dozens of ADA lawsuits; Vallejo businesses fight ‘vexatious litigation’,” Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, 23 July 2011