On December 29, San Diegan Chris Langer filed a suit against the Cotter Company and Cotter Church Supplies of Los Angeles. In the suit, Langer complained that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which incorporates the ADA.
By my count, this was the 157th such suit he filed in federal courts in the Los Angeles and San Diego districts in 2016, although a lawyer friend says it was number 163.
In his suits, Langer says that he is a paraplegic who must use a wheelchair. He complains that an enterprise has not complied with the act for a number of different reasons: for example, he can't find specialized parking or has difficulty getting in the front door or the washroom.
Langer's law firm is Potter Handy, located just off I-15 near Mira Mesa Boulevard. The law firm has another name: the Center for Disability Access. On its website, the center boasts that the firm's lawyers are "devoted solely to upholding the rights of persons with disabilities." That means filing multiple ADA suits. The center was founded by Mark Potter, partner of the law firm.
"The [Americans with Disabilities Act] is a magnificent law," exults the center, but many others consider the ADA a shakedown vehicle. The suits demand that an enterprise fix the violations — but also want financial damages, often $4000. Potter Handy doesn't always prevail, of course. Some of its suits get thrown out, but it also settles some of them on good terms.
In 2013, a state law curbed some of he obvious abuses, but the suits continue to pile up around the state. One of the lawyers in the suit against Cotter, Ray Ballister, filed 586 Americans with Disabilities Act suits in the federal Los Angeles and San Diego district courts between 2004 and 2012. Ballister, and his fellow attorneys in the Cotter case, are in good standing with the California Bar Association. Theodore Pinnock, one of San Diego's most prolific ADA lawsuit filers, was disbarred in 2012.