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ADA Lawsuit Targets 5 Rosemont Plaza Businesses

Straw Hat Pizza, Peking Village Chinese Restaurant and three salons are being sued in federal court.

Five Rosemont Plaza businesses could be forced to pay thousands of dollars in damages to a prominent lawyer who says they're violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Scott Johnson, a Carmichael-based attorney well-known for filing ADA lawsuits, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against , , , and .

The lawsuit says the five Kiefer Boulevard businesses don't have fully accessible restrooms, the correct number and type of disabled parking spaces and accessible entrances. It also says the counter and pizza buffet in Straw Hat are not at the correct height.

"You go into this restaurant to eat and I need to use the restroom–I can't use it," Johnson said by phone. "It's extremely frustrating."

When this lawsuit was mentioned over the weekend on the Rosemont Neighborhood Watch Facebook group, users called it a "scam" and derided Johnson for filing it.

Johnson, who is quadriplegic and relies on a service dog, said if it were up to him, ADA laws would be enforced by an outside body and there wouldn't be any lawsuits.

"The number of lawsuits I like to use is zero," he said. "If somebody contacts me and says, 'We cant afford to fix this right now,' I can work with them and develop a plan. Let's fix the things you can fix now and make a long term plan for the things that are in place."

Johnson's lawsuit states he sent letters both to Straw Hat Pizza and the Los Altos-based owners of Rosemont Plaza, asking them to fix the accessibility issues, but never heard back.

Straw Hat Pizza owner Masoud Soudani, who is named in the lawsuit, could not be reached at the time of this posting. A call to Vintage Realty, which owns the plaza, has not yet been returned.

Johnson's lawsuit asks for the minimum amount of damages that can be given in ADA lawsuits: $4,000 per violation. He said he doesn't want to create a hardship on any business owner, and only asks for improvements that are "readily achievable."

"If it's going to put them out of business, they don't have to do it," he said. "That's why I've never put anybody out of business."

Johnson said he also wished property owners could be held accountable for improvements, because often neither the property owner nor the business owners wants to make the needed upgrades.

"It'd be nice if congress said property owners are responsible, period," Johnson said. "Then you've got the people with the wherewithal to fix the properties."

He said business owners shouldn't stay in a location where they have a landlord who isn't helpful.

"If you're a business operator and you've got a lousy landlord who's not willing to work with you, hey, relocate to an accessible location."

Johnson said he doesn't keep track of how many lawsuits he files, but on the same day he sued the Rosemont businesses, he also filed suits against a bank and restaurant in Gold River, an electronics store in south Sacramento, a Fairfield veterinarian and a Payless Shoe Source in Vacaville.

Check back for more information as it becomes available.

Jeff Puthuff October 31, 2011 at 11:26 PM
What a parasite. He should be disbarred for filing these frivolous lawsuits. It's highly unlikely that a guy from Carmichael would eat at Rosemont Straw Hat or have his nails and hair done at the plaza salons. Whom does he think he's fooling?
Colby Meuret October 31, 2011 at 11:34 PM
This is interesting. He's filing at least 5 lawsuits a day in court, let's say the businesses do nothing and he's awarded $4000/suit. That's $20,000 a day. How much of that is he giving back to the community or charities for Americans with Disabilities? This is an abuse of a law enacted to assist the ease in getting out and about for the disabled.
Brad November 01, 2011 at 06:45 AM
I'm not sure what bothers me most, the fact that he is milking a system originally designed to assist those with disabilities, or the fact that he tells everyone that what he is doing is a good thing. He has no idea what things are like in Rosemont, or the fact that we are losing businesses left and right and desperately trying to encourage and build businesses here. Instead he seems to have come oozing into town with a chip on his shoulder and a diamond in his tooth. Also, don't forget it is actually $4000 per violation according to this article, therefore it may be likely that he is going for much more than $20,000. I wonder if some people might say that he fits the description of a self-serving Carpetbagger, and the only "change" he is looking for, is the type he can put in his wallet.
Tina Wong November 01, 2011 at 02:20 PM
My first response was that he is a scammer. But then again, who or what agency is working to make facilities accessible for the disabled? It would seem reasonable to give the landlord and business owner a timeline and a low interest loan or something to help them comply.
RL Nelson November 01, 2011 at 03:48 PM
I'm sorry, but there are things in life that one cannot do. That's why it is called a disability. I can't climb Half Dome, but I'm not suing the National Park to put in an elevator. Why is this guy suing two nail salons? Does he need access to one for each hand? There is an accessible Pizza Parlor across the street, if he really wants a pizza he could go there. Just one more case where the courts and the government are out of touch with reality.
Denise November 01, 2011 at 04:54 PM
I love Rosemont and Sylvia's Nails is the best place. But why shouldn't they be accessible to everyone? The guys says he's asking for changes and has never put anyone out of business. It doesn't sound completely unreasonable. On my first day opening a new store, there was an ADA compliance guy who we asked to come in, and he identified some areas where we needed to move things around. It wasn't a complete remodel and not as sinister as all this.
Brad November 02, 2011 at 04:45 AM
I might share your opinion if he was operating a non-profit, willing to stop the suit if the defendant made the appropriate modifications, wasn't filing so many in a single day, making a substantial fortune from continuiously doing it, was typically pursuing other types of legal cases, and actually patronized these businesses on a regular basis. He's seeking businesses that he feels are offendors, not ones he regularly uses, or are even in his own town. And no, driving from Carmichael to Rosemont to patronize these businesses is absurd. Seems to be systimatically mining the entire Sacramento area, if not more. The hypocrasy is in that he claims to be doing it for disabled people, while he reaps the rewards and jepordizes the rest of the community by attaching an additional financial burden to small businesses that are often the sole source of income for families. Even the "never put someone out of business" claim is nothing more than a half-hearted attempt at public relations. As a business owner yourself (assuming small), I'm sure you're aware there are times when you are operating in the Red, and if lucky might make it to the Black more often. Just because someone runs a business does not mean they have money to burn. The folks he is going after are just trying to make a living while providing a service or goods and possibly at the same time employing others. The business might not imediately fail, but who knows, someone could end up losing a job or families could suffer.
Tina Wong November 02, 2011 at 02:28 PM
Someone pointed out to me that he only targets small mom/pop businesses. He did not go after Payless Shoes, Baskin Robbins or UPS. Perhaps they are compliant. Or they have the resources and knowledge to defend themselves. It's a shame for these independent owners to have to go through this. I'm afraid it is going to drive even more business out. Maybe this mall will eventually be totally emptied. Who is benefitting from this?
Cody Kitaura (Editor) November 02, 2011 at 04:10 PM
Hi Tina, Just to clarify, on the same day he filed the lawsuit against the businesses in Rosemont, Scott Johnson also filed a suit against a Chase bank and Chevy's in Gold River, as well as a Payless Shoe Source in Vacaville.
Cody Kitaura (Editor) November 02, 2011 at 04:45 PM
The Auburn Journal today mentioned a smog business in that city that will be making payments to Scott Johnson for the next five years: http://auburnjournal.com/detail/192060.html
Laura November 02, 2011 at 05:28 PM
This guy may very well be an opportunist, but the law is the law. If a business is non-compliant, then someone, whether it is the landlord or the business owner, needs to change that. My ex has a service dog, and he and I spent a LOT of time with retail workers (and their supervisors) who were ignorant of the laws regarding service animals. One restaurant on Folsom Blvd (now out of business) put us in a back room and ignored us until we finally left for lack of service. The 99 cent store in Rancho Cordova tried to make us put the dog in a shopping cart. Totally ridiculous! The dog cannot perform his duties if he is in a shopping cart like a sack of flour. Anyway, if I were in a wheelchair, I would want the ability to choose Straw Hat over Round Table if I so desired. Hopefully this can be settled out of court.
Clinton November 02, 2011 at 06:50 PM
He as done this to the company I work for in Roseville, a motorcycle shop. We now have mats for the blind indicating where the side walk is( four in total) in a motorcycle shop! We also had to put in a concrete sidewalk along the back end of the building for a fire escape, to the tune of 25k dollars (long building).
Raider Nation November 02, 2011 at 08:28 PM
Why not take all of the money that is being made off of these lawsuits and put it into a fund where small businesses, if they qualify, can tap into in order to make them compliant instead of into the pockets of the lawyers. And these accommodations should not fall on the shoulders of the business leasing the property it should be payed for by the owners of the buildings. On a side note, this guy sounds like he is profiting off these lawsuits and that in itself is a shame.
MJ November 02, 2011 at 08:45 PM
Sounds like a professional thief!
Brad November 02, 2011 at 11:31 PM
But that would make way too much sense. Things like that just don't happen in this Universe, you should know that!
Jonathan Beachum December 08, 2011 at 04:34 PM
I read these articles all the time and they’re all the same. No one knew they were out of compliance yet by now most business owners are aware of these lawsuits yet take no action to protect their livelihood. There are many companies like mine that inspect business and help them become compliant with the laws to avoid these problems yet over 90% of our clients have lawsuits pending. Why do business owners wait? We do basic parking lot inspection for $250, most striping jobs are under $1,200 and these lawsuit settlements average $4,000-$6,000. Better to put the money into your business than give it to attorneys. (www.adahelpforum.com)
Denise December 08, 2011 at 06:43 PM
I spoke to them, at Sylvia's Nails, and they're so worried and upset. English is not their first language, so they had one of their customers write a response letter. They haven't been given the opportunity to get it right, and when they tried to enlist ADA attorneys, they were told just to pay as it's not going to be fiscally a good idea to fight it. But that is a lot of money for them, as they do not bring in a lot of money and business is very slow right now. I don't specialize in ADA, but maybe someone out there does. Will it materially affect the lawsuit if they fix the problems? If so, then they could hire Jonathan or someone like him to determine what they need I for one am totally willing to volunteer to go in and help put up rails or a high sink or whatever it takes to get them compliant.
dale February 15, 2012 at 06:29 AM
He came up to Foresthill and left letters to two businesses I know of.One is a small coffee shop and barely making a go of it.She may have to close shop and lay off her employees.It may cost the owner $1200 to hire an architect to tell her whats needed to compy.I am surprised this blodd sucker is still alive.
Padraig Laughlin August 05, 2013 at 07:36 PM
Straw Hat on Kiefer is Closed over a year now."out of business " the blood sucker strikes again all delivery drivers cooks all out of work. I worked at that location back in late 80's Old construction standards about the only way to fix the bathrooms would be to gut them and style them after a hospital restroom not gender specific but thats a mute point now customer base is gone

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