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‘If I am guilty of anything, it’s of being a good lawyer and advocating for the rights of the disabled,” proclaims Lynn Hubbard III of Chico, who has filed, by his own reckoning, 2000 lawsuits in the past ten years in California, many in San Diego County. Hubbard and his small staff make their money by suing businesses in federal court for violations of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

“I have been investigated by the state bar on 14 occasions,” he says, “and it has said there have been no violations of the code of ethics. I have had lawyers who thought they could prove me to be a vexatious litigant [a lawyer suing maliciously for the purpose of annoying or embarrassing an opponent],” says Hubbard. The charges haven’t stuck, as his record with the State Bar of California shows. A district attorney in Shasta County tried to nail him, “but he couldn’t make a case,” boasts the glib Hubbard, who rakes in the dough on legal fees and settlements.

About 95 percent of the companies he sues settle out of court, “and in 99.9 percent of the cases they agree to make changes” to conform to the legislation, he asserts.

But few attorneys and even fewer business owners share Hubbard’s lofty opinion of his own achievements. “It’s a business for him,” says Mia Severson, a San Diego attorney who recently got Hubbard to drop a case against her client, a restaurant in Chula Vista. “He brags that his overhead is $31,000 a month.”

There are several other California lawyers who file multiple suits charging violations of disabilities laws. One is San Diego attorney Theodore Pinnock, himself disabled, who has been sending letters to and filing suits against local enterprises since 1992. In 2007, federal court judge Jeffrey Miller imposed sanctions against Pinnock, ordering him to complete four hours of ethics and professional-responsibility training classes approved by the state bar. Pinnock had sued a business that hadn’t been open for two years. He had to pay the owner’s $15,000 legal fees.

Hubbard often targets San Diego because his Imperial Beach parents often were his plaintiffs, purportedly going to businesses and finding violations. (His mother recently died.) Hubbard says both had disabilities that qualified them to be plaintiffs under the 1990 law.

On October 29, one A.J. Oliver filed suit against Marisol Villasenor and the restaurant she owns, Agave Grill in Chula Vista. Hubbard was the attorney. Among numerous things, the complaint stated that signage was not correct, entrance mats were not secure, there was no seating designated for the disabled, the pipes under the lavatory were improperly wrapped, and the toilet tissue and disposable seat cover dispensers obstructed use of the side grab bar.

Lori Pettigrew, who is Villasenor’s key assistant, says, “None of the things alleged in the complaint were true.” Oliver, who uses a wheelchair, claimed he was there twice with a friend who also uses one. She checked restaurant employees; they were certain the two had not been in the restaurant together. “It was clear it was a shakedown. We don’t want to pay blackmail money.”

Severson did her homework, discovering that Oliver had filed 20 similar San Diego lawsuits with Hubbard as his attorney. She contacted defense attorneys, who generally said they had settled the cases. “The magistrate put pressure on my client to settle, but I insisted on deposing the guy because my client said he had never been in the place,” she says.

On November 4, she deposed Oliver with Hubbard there as his attorney. It was pathos. Oliver, who can neither read nor write and suffered a stroke 13 years ago, could not remember the name of the restaurant, where it was located, what it looked like outside or inside, or whether there were signs for the benefit of the disabled. Severson pressed him on the 20 suits that had been filed with his name as plaintiff, asking if he could remember filing suits against, or being inside, such places as KFC, Moneytree check cashing, Wienerschnitzel, Rally’s, Red Lobster, and Mervyns. He said he had not filed such suits. In fact, he couldn’t remember filing any suit against Villasenor and the Agave Grill. And he claimed he had never received any money for all the suits that he had filed.

Hubbard quickly dropped the suit. “Somebody changed Oliver’s medication,” claims Hubbard. “It was the worst deposition I have ever been to. He didn’t remember anything. I knew then there was no way we could prevail in that suit.”

But, warns the lawyer, “That restaurant was grossly out of compliance. It has made substantial changes, but there are still problems. I am waiting for another client to go in there and get pissed, and I might sue again.”

Severson points out that Hubbard would have to go fishing for another plaintiff. “The depth of his lack of ethics knows no bounds,” she says.

“He wanted to settle for $5000,” says Pettigrew. Hubbard doesn’t deny that but says the defense was willing to pay $1000. Severson says there were negotiations, but they were confidential and Hubbard is not supposed to talk about them.

“My client fixed any problems,” says Severson. “We are not necessarily agreeing that there were problems.” The Agave Grill hired an expert, who found only small infractions. For example, the toilets had to be raised by a quarter of an inch, she says.

For a number of reasons, Villasenor will inform the bar of Hubbard’s conduct, says Severson.

From time to time, bills are introduced in the legislature to help businesses hit with disability act lawsuits. In fact, one was introduced last year by an assemblyman from Chico, Hubbard’s home base. But the bills haven’t gone anywhere, says Severson.

There are people who defend lawyers that file multiple disability act suits. “The truth is, that in a lot of cases, where you get relief is by suing,” says San Diegan William Stothers, deputy director of the Center for an Accessible Society. “Nobody enforces the act, so if places are not accessible, you knock on the door, say, ‘This isn’t right, and you have to fix it.’ ” Often, a lawsuit is necessary. “You can complain to the Justice Department, but it only does a minuscule number of cases,” and those are generally against large companies. However, he concedes, “There are sharks out there who file a ton of these things.”

Agrees Margaret Johnson of Sacramento, advocacy director of Disability Rights California, “The only real enforcement of disability cases is people doing something individually; some write letters, others file lawsuits. We feel fortunate there are lawyers out there, although some may be abusing the system.”

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a2zresource Dec. 30, 2009 @ 1:07 p.m.

Whether intended or not, the Americans with Disabilities Act has a long reach against existing businesses that were in compliance with local and state zoning laws before the federal act was passed.

Whether intended or not, a business owner who was once law-abiding but is now not in compliance with ADA might just look at the current state of the economy, shut her or his doors, and move to the sunny islands of the South Pacific.

Whether intended or not, there may be a lot of otherwise employable persons with disabilities who end up home alone waiting on a government entitlement check because many neighborhood small businesses have left town.

Whether intended or not, ADA favors Internet-based commerce as a website is only as good as any individual's own computer is at handling one's disability, whereas a brick&mortar store front can't just rebuild on command when there's no credit to be had.

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Don Bauder Dec. 30, 2009 @ 1:10 p.m.

Response to post #1: Excellent points. It's the law of unintended consequences. Best, Don Bauder

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MURPHYJUNK Dec. 30, 2009 @ 1:19 p.m.

these ada lawyers are absolute scum bags, they don't care about getting things changed, just lining their pockets.

they always settle out of court, as getting to court would blow their scam.

too bad they don't mess with some of the "connected" businesses and get some real payback by gang members that don't put up with their crap.

check the federal court web site and run the names of the lawyers filing the ada suits and some of their "clients", it will be obvious they are running a scam mill.

makes one wonder who is paying off the federal judges to let this go on for so long.

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Don Bauder Dec. 30, 2009 @ 1:25 p.m.

Response to post #3: So many of these lawyers have a handful of friends who serve as plaintiffs -- claiming they went to an establishment and found all these violations. Trouble is, so many defendants simply settle. We never get to find out whether the plaintiff has in fact been inside the place. Best, Don Bauder

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MURPHYJUNK Dec. 30, 2009 @ 1:40 p.m.

Don

like most things of this nature, everyone knows whats going on, but in spite of knowing, its still going on.

here is example of some of Pinnock cases from fed court web site.

for more "fun" follow Lynn Hubbard III and some of his clients on.

I had to post a link as the 3000 character limit here would not begin to show it all

http://www.ucan.org/forum/forums/general_comments/ada_scam_lawyers_are_waiting_till_things_cool_down_so_they_can_go_at_it_agin

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Don Bauder Dec. 30, 2009 @ 6:05 p.m.

Response to post #5: Wow! What a list of cases. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Dec. 30, 2009 @ 6:06 p.m.

Response to post #6: I think you meant "Jesus H. Christ!" Best, Don Bauder

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PistolPete Dec. 30, 2009 @ 9:30 p.m.

Yeah, Don....Jesus H Christ! is about it. My mistake....lol.

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SurfPuppy619 Dec. 30, 2009 @ 9:34 p.m.

So many of these lawyers have a handful of friends who serve as plaintiffs

That is exactly how Lerach was popped. His professional "plaintiff" (another lawyer out in Palm Springs) was busted for fraud and rolled over on Lerach and the rest of Milberg et al., bringing down the biggest class action firm in the nation.

I was surprised to see Pinnock was busted in federal court-he has been investigated numerous times by the CA State Bar-and always cleared, and he has that posted on his website too.

They need to go after these guys like they went after the Trevor Law Firm in Beverly Hills, who was running a shake down on Business and Professions Code section 17200, which has since been amended. But the three lawyers at Trevor ALL got disbarred.

If Villasenor wanted to play hard ball she could file a malicious prosecution action against Hubbard, along with intentional infliction of emotional distress. That would teach Hubbard a good leasson-but now that the word is out that he is using bogus plaintiffs, I doubt he gets many defendants to cave in to a nusiance lawsuit.

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SurfPuppy619 Dec. 30, 2009 @ 9:37 p.m.

Wow! What a list of cases.

And that list ends in 2004.....I would hate to see 2005-2009!

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Don Bauder Dec. 30, 2009 @ 9:53 p.m.

Response to post #9: We have to stay pristine here. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Dec. 30, 2009 @ 9:56 p.m.

Response to post #10: In the future, more lawyers will probably refuse to settle. Remember, in this case, the judge wanted the defendant to settle. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Dec. 30, 2009 @ 9:58 p.m.

Response to post #11: These lawsuits have probably piled up even more. Best, Don Bauder

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bluenwhitegokart Dec. 31, 2009 @ 8:06 a.m.

Response to #5: Cheese and crackers! My mom was right; I should have become a scumbag lawyer...er, I mean, an attorney...instead of the piano player in a whorehouse!

There's gold in them thar hills!

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Don Bauder Dec. 31, 2009 @ 10:27 a.m.

Response to post #15: Pity the piano player in the brothel. His pay is low, but when the cops raid the joint, he gets hauled off to the pokey with the girls practicing their craft upstairs. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Dec. 31, 2009 @ 4:54 p.m.

I should have become a scumbag lawyer...er, I mean, an attorney...instead of the piano player in a whorehouse!

I guess that would depend on what kind of fringe benefits the piano player gets :)

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Don Bauder Dec. 31, 2009 @ 6:45 p.m.

Response to post #17: Some divorce lawyers have excellent fringes, too. Best, Don Bauder

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bluenwhitegokart Jan. 1, 2010 @ 2:35 a.m.

Response to #16: Don, you're such a killjoy at times! When I worked the oil fields of Okla-by-gawd-homa, back in the day, there was actually a bumper sticker (that I displayed proudly) which declared: Don't tell my mom I work in the oil fields - she thinks I'm a piano player in a whorehouse.

I thought it was cool at the time.

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Don Bauder Jan. 1, 2010 @ 7:40 a.m.

Response to post #19: I have never heard of Okla-by-gawd-homa. Like it. The most famous one, of course, is West (By God!) Virginia. And I think I heard the punch line this way: "Don't tell my mother I'm a lawyer. She thinks I'm a piano player in a whorehouse." But I think any occupation can be substituted for lawyer, depending who is telling the story. Happy New Year! Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 1, 2010 @ 9:16 a.m.

When I worked the oil fields of Okla-by-gawd-homa, back in the day,

By bluenwhitegokart

Hey, were you one of those "wildcat" rig workers??? Like on that reality TV show "Black Gold"??

It looked like hard work-and inconsistant too. Was that show accurate?

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Don Bauder Jan. 1, 2010 @ 9:44 a.m.

Response to post #21: Rig workers in Okla-by-gawd-homa are contributing to the economy. Rig workers on Wall-by-gawd- Street manipulate markets and are destroying the economy. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell Jan. 1, 2010 @ 11:24 p.m.

If God gave the world an enema He'd stick the nozzle in Oklahoma.

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MURPHYJUNK Jan. 2, 2010 @ 7:38 a.m.

anyone notice bool weevil is out of business now?

think this had something to do with it?

how many persons out of work now?

This person is a party in 7 cases. 97-90308-LA Boll Weevil, Inc. v. Wheelchair Access Now Today et al filed 05/01/97 closed 04/30/98

97-90437-LA Wheelchair Access Now Today, Suing On Behalf Of No v. Lovett Family Trust et al filed 06/06/97 closed 10/30/98

97-90439-LA Wheelchair Access Now Today, Suing On Behalf Of No v. Boll Weevil Restaurant - Pacific Highway, San Dieg filed 06/06/97 closed 10/30/98

97-90514-LA Wheelchair Access Now Today, Suing on Behalf of No v. Boll Weevil Restaurant-Mission Gorge Road, San Die filed 06/26/97 closed 01/07/99

97-90515-LA Wheelchair Access Now Today, Suing on Behalf of No v. Boll Weevil Restaurant, Property Number 11 - Convo filed 06/26/97 closed 11/02/98

97-90549-LA Wheelchair Access Now Today, Suing on Behalf of No v. Boll Weevil Restaurant, Property Number 1 - Midway filed 07/08/97 closed 11/02/98

98-90257-LA Wheelchiar Access Now Today, - suing on behalf of v. Boll Weevil Restaurant Property number 30 - Fletch filed 05/22/98 closed 11/30/98

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Don Bauder Jan. 2, 2010 @ 8:03 a.m.

Response to post #23: I've heard that about Kansas City, too. And St. Louis. But consider this one (which I think came from H.L. Mencken):"God tipped the world on its axis and all the nuts rolled into Southern California." I'm reciting that from memory, so there may be other versions. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 2, 2010 @ 8:05 a.m.

Response to post #24: I always liked those Boll Weevil restaurants. Our family was disappointed when they closed down. Best, Don Bauder

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Ponzi Jan. 2, 2010 @ 10:14 a.m.

Th "Home of the ½ Lb. Steerburger" is still around. Bruised up but not dead. There are Boll Weevil locations in Lemon Grove, Imperial Beach and Ramona.

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 2, 2010 @ 3:29 p.m.

Th "Home of the ½ Lb. Steerburger" is still around

I thought it was the "Steelburger" all these years!

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Don Bauder Jan. 2, 2010 @ 5:18 p.m.

Response to post #27: So they weren't killed after all. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 2, 2010 @ 5:20 p.m.

Response to post #28: It's those iron jaws of yours, SP. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 2, 2010 @ 5:22 p.m.

Response to post #29: Well, make a Boll Weevil (restaurant) post, PP. Best, Don Bauder

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PistolPete Jan. 2, 2010 @ 6:56 p.m.

Seeing as I've only lived here for 5 years and have never eaten at a Boll Weevil, I wouldn't know where to begin...

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bluenwhitegokart Jan. 3, 2010 @ 6:13 a.m.

Unfortunately, I currently reside in the great state of Maryland (motto: "we never thought of a new tax we didn't want to impose"). After having moved here from Ventura, and before that, 30 years in San Diego (10+ in North County), culture shock doesn't even begin to describe the experience. I'm convinced that the rampant stupidity here is why the earth tilts on its axis. They even have a name for themselves here: Southern Maryland Inbreds (SMIBs). They're actually quite proud of the name. I'm ready to take a job at China Lake, just to escape. Did I mention that it's Zero degrees outside, with the windchill?

Sorry about the hijack, Don.

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Don Bauder Jan. 3, 2010 @ 6:50 a.m.

Response to post #33: Well, you can start by dining at one of the existing Boll Weevils in the county. It's possible each has retained the name, but the three are not connected, as sometimes happens when a chain goes out of business. That's POSSIBLE, I said. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 3, 2010 @ 6:55 a.m.

Response to post #34: I certainly hope your job is remunerative enough to keep you comfortable in southern Maryland. It won't be easy to get a job if you expect to return to San Diego. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 3, 2010 @ 11:57 a.m.

Response to post #37: I would be interested to know if the three Boll Weevils operate jointly, or at least do group purchasing to hold down costs. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 4, 2010 @ 5:56 p.m.

I would be interested to know if the three Boll Weevils operate jointly, or at least do group purchasing to hold down costs

Good question, you would think they are under one owenership-since they survived the chains BK, which also suggest the chain/corp. parent was not well managed (and the restaurant business is very easy to fail in).

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Don Bauder Jan. 4, 2010 @ 6:30 p.m.

Response to post #39: They may be under one management and/or ownership, but it's no sure thing. The restaurants individually may have bought the name from the BK court. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 4, 2010 @ 9:21 p.m.

Response to post #41: Sounds like there may be a loose affiliation (mainly with suppliers) among the surviving restaurants, which are individually owned and have retained the name. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 5, 2010 @ 3:05 p.m.

I recall reading that the franchisees were able to use the same suppliers as the company stores.

It is a certainty that ALL the BW's are using the same supplier/s-for good reason,they will be on a special/same pricing schedule which non chains do not get.

The BW chain used to be serviced by Sysco Foodservices. Probably still are.

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rickeysays Jan. 5, 2010 @ 4:30 p.m.

There's also a Weevil Burger (former BW) on Fletcher Pkwy.

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Don Bauder Jan. 5, 2010 @ 8:59 p.m.

Response to post #43: It's logical that the remaining Boll Weevils would use the same supplier, but it is not a certainty. One or all of them may have radically different menus and have only retained the name. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 5, 2010 @ 9 p.m.

Response to post #44: Do you suppose it didn't purchase rights to the name? Interesting. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 5, 2010 @ 9:02 p.m.

Response to post #45: We still don't know the key question: was this chain partially done in by ADA lawsuits? Best, Don Bauder

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CASp014 Jan. 21, 2010 @ 9:02 a.m.

Don,

Your article is in error. There is legislation that was signed into law in September of 2008. SB 1608 provides considerable relief for property owners and tenants by giving them the opportunity to get an ADA survey and have a CASp Inspection Certificate issued for the facility.

You should research SB 1608 and the Certified Access Specialist Program and write a followup article. There is relief on the horizon for the targets of Hubbard, Pinnock and the rest of the malicious litigants.

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Don Bauder Jan. 21, 2010 @ 10:37 a.m.

Response to post #46: I will have to check this out. The key is whether it gives "considerable relief." Best, Don Bauder

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