Three of the five Rosemont businesses are denying any responsibility, while one is paying out of pocket to make the requested changes and another says it has already fixed the problem.
The lawsuit, which says the businesses' parking areas and restrooms aren't properly accessible, were filed by Scott Johnson, a Carmichael-based attorney who is quadriplegic and relies on a service dog. The five businesses targeted in the lawsuit are , , , and .
Each of the businesses has filed responses with the federal court.
Hollywood Nails, Sylvia's Nails and Hair World gave similar responses, which stated the property owner is responsible for any redesign of their spaces or the parking lots, but that each business would be willing to make changes as the owner mandates. Furthermore, each response stated that, unlike Straw Hat Pizza, they were not given a 90-day notice of non-compliance from Johnson.
“Those letters are not required,” Johnson said. “There are instances where I have sent a letter, the business received it and the alterations went on so long that the business got sued by someone completely different that didn't give notice.”
Each salon also stated, “...we have no funds with which to obtain an attorney. As such, we must represent ourselves and will do the best we can given that English is our second language.”
Peking Village Chinese Restaurant also denied liability for parking lot accommodations in its response and included a photograph showing fixtures in the women's restroom had been lowered, making the violation "fully remedied."
In Straw Hat Pizza's response, owner Masoud Soudani denies receiving letters from Johnson and asked for copies to be re-sent. Furthermore, Soudani is in the process of modifying his restaurant to be ADA compliant.
“We have no choice - no one is going to do it for me. The landlord is not going to help me for nothing,” Soudani said this week. “This restaurant is almost 40 years old and I've only changed the painting or decorations.”
Soudani said he does not understand Johnson's mentality.
“I don't think that way, to sue people, I think to help people,” he said.
“It's been over 20 years and (these businesses) are still in non-compliance,” Johnson said. “I am physically disabled–so it's personal to me. It affects my daily living everyday, when I leave my house.”
With the money made off the lawsuits, Johnson said he makes monthly donations to service dog organizations and different disabled group activities. He did not wish to name specific organizations.
“Not all of the money, but I do make monthly donations,” he said. “They are personal and not required.”
Tim Franks, owner of APTI Construction Incorporated, was outraged when he heard about the ADA lawsuit against Straw Hat Pizza. In response, he offered to help make the restaurant ADA compliant “at-cost.”
“I don't know Masoud really at all–(I've) just bought pizza there multiple times–but when I heard about this I went to him and told him that if he bought the material I'd be happy to work for free, but Masoud said he didn't want charity so now we are just trying to find the cheapest options,” Franks said.
Soudani gives back to the community, Franks said, and that is the most important thing.
“Like with me, I always give my neighbors (a) discount on construction work because they're my neighbors. We should want to help each other out–that's what we're losing in today's community,” he said.
Franks and Soudani are in the process of bringing in an outside, third-party ADA consultant. They hope to finish the upgrades as quickly as possible.
Johnson said these alterations have to be done.
“The real questions that should be asked here are: Why do they choose to be in violation of law for such a long period of time? Why do they choose not to be in compliance? Why do they choose not to work the issues out with the landlord prior to being sued? Why do they choose to operate in facilities that are non-compliant?,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he's still waiting for the owners of Rosemont Plaza to respond.
“We'll see if they will step up and take responsibility or if they're going to place blame on the tenant,” Johnson said. “Right now it's a landlord-tenant issue.”
In today's economy, Johnson said tenants have a strong arm and should use it.
“Landlords don't want to lose their tenants, so the tenants can demand the changes be made,” he said. “Landlords and tenants are responsible to the disabled public, in general, and they can decide through a lease how the responsibility is divided, but that lease shouldn't affect my rights or any other person's who is disabled.”
Rosemont Plaza L.P.'s attorney, Charles Painter, declined to comment because the matter is in litigation. In the Rosemont Plaza Limited Partnership's official response, Painter denied Johnson's claims, asked for the case to be dismissed and requested a jury trial.