Friday Jan 13 2012
List of Auburn businesses hit by ADA compliance lawsuits grows
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
Chamber to offer compliance courses
More Auburn businesses have been sued by Carmichael-based lawyer Scott Johnson for being out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards. Some local business owners say they are afraid they may have to close because of the lawsuits, while city officials are encouraging businesses to turn Johnson in to the California State Bar Association. Mayor Keith Nesbitt said the city’s attorney is collecting data on each case. Johnson has settled on monetary amounts with many businesses, rather than demanding they make their businesses ADA compliant. “We have encouraged everyone who settles with this person to turn them into the bar association,” Nesbitt said. “Quite a few of the people have had complaints because of the practical application or cost of compliance. It’s actually cheaper for them to settle with the guy. The City Attorney is basically trying to document all of the cases to prove this is a little too litigious.” Nesbitt said businesses may come together to form some form a formal legal action against Johnson in the future. City Manager Bob Richardson said that while the city attorney is collecting the data it has no intention taking on the case for business owners. “We’ve compiled all the names we have. We have sent it over to the (Auburn) Chamber (Of Commerce,” Richardson said. “We are not a party to them.” Bruce Cosgrove, president of the chamber, said the chamber has no intention of organizing any kind of case against Johnson. “I can only tell you that I’ve heard people say that’s what they want to do. That is not something the Chamber is working on to put together a countersuit of some kind,” Cosgrove said. Instead, it is working to educate business owners about ADA compliance. “Early last year we had an ADA compliance workshop and we are having another one. It’s going to be sometime in the spring. We’ll bring in qualified experts who will talk about basically what every business owner needs to know and do,” Cosgrove said. The bottom line, he said, is businesses can avoid being sued by creating a plan through a state-approved expert to make ADA improvements over a reasonable amount of time. “All businesses ultimately must comply with ADA regulations. They have been in place for many, many years and it’s not going to go away. The ultimate resolution is compliance. They are generous with the timeline so long as it’s reasonable.” Larry Taylor, who owns Pet Xing in Auburn, said he has been sued along with two out of the three other tenants in his shopping center. “My main violation is my aisle space. I can’t (become ADA compliant) or I would lose inventory. Your small businesses that are already struggling, it’s making them struggle even more.” Taylor said he already moved from a larger location to be able to afford rent and creating more space in his aisles would reduce his inventory by 30 percent. He said Johnson is asking the three businesses to pay $6,000 total or meet him in court in September. “I’m trying to comply to my best available ability,” Taylor said. “I think a lot of us feel the same, but don’t want to say anything that will make it worse. I hope to be able to stay in business is all. It’s a tough area because I really am bitter, most of us are.” Reach Sara Seyydin at firstname.lastname@example.org.