BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
This story about an Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit has a different ending than others you’ve read.
A former lawyer in Arizona, who was disbarred for filing thousands of groundless lawsuits, last month sued three mid-Peninsula hotels for supposedly violating the ADA.
But U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in Oakland was wise to Peter Strojnik and threw out his lawsuit a day against the local businesses after it was filed. And the judge did so on his own, without the defendants asking him.
The three hotels — The Nest, Four Seasons and Hilton Garden Inn — didn’t even have to hire lawyers to defend themselves.
Strojnik was trying to sue them over things such as not having marked passenger loading zones, or too steep of a slope in their parking lots. He only stayed at The Nest, and spent a brief amount of time at the other two hotels, according to the lawsuit.
Strojnik claims that The Nest at 3901 El Camino Real was not accessible to people with disabilities because of various problems he had while staying at the hotel on Feb. 10. Strojnik has a prosthetic knee, along with other “physical infirmities” that are not laid out in his suit.
Door lock was too high
Some of those complaints about The Nest included the door lock in his room being too high and problems with the water temperature in the room.
Strojnik filed his lawsuit on June 16, and the next day, Judge White threw it out.
Judge White in his ruling says that Strojnik must prove in his lawsuits that he was harmed by the ADA violations he alleges, or that a ruling in Strojnik’s favor would cause for good to happen.
Strojnik is known for filing lawsuits crafted to harass the defendants into settling and paying him up to $5,000 in attorney’s fees.
He filed more than 1,700 of such lawsuits in Arizona and got $1.2 million in fees before the state disbarred him in May 2019.
The state bar’s investigation also found that Strojnik would hire people through Craigslist to research businesses he wanted to sue. Strojnik would often spend less than a half-hour at the places he sued, or never visited them at all, according to a report from KTAR-FM, a news station in Phoenix.
California authorities keep an eye on ex-lawyer
As a result of Strojnik’s disbarment in Arizona, the California State Bar is watching his lawsuits closely, and in May filed its disciplinary charges against him.
However, the mid-Peninsula and California is no stranger to predatory ADA lawsuits. Scott Johnson has filed thousands of lawsuits throughout the state, about 44 a month. It was one of Johnson’s lawsuits that caused Jason’s Cafe on El Camino in Menlo Park to close in April 2019.
But in May 2019, a federal grand jury in Sacramento indicted Johnson on three counts of tax fraud. If convicted, he could face three years in prison on each of the counts.
Under the law, settlements in lawsuits are taxable unless they were paid for actual physical injury or sickness. But prosecutors contend Johnson underreported the taxable income he received from lawsuit settlements and awards on his income tax returns for tax years 2012, 2013, and 2014. In fact, in 2013, he didn’t pay any federal tax at all, prosecutors said.
Johnson’s case is pending and he is set to return to court in August 2021.
I’m glad the judge stopped this suit, but there needs to be a law to prevent these suits. Maybe a filtering system that sorts out the legitimate claims from the frivolous.
If there is a “Judge of the Year” Award, I’d nominate Judge White.
I’m glad the judge did throw it out as well but does not mean that there are business out there that are in violation of Ada.
I inherited my business from my father. Well the name change on ownership was being done. I was required to go through several inspections. Alcohol beverage control inspection. Fire Marshal inspection City inspection City inspectors health department inspection Up to code with everything health department grade a. Why wasn’t I made aware by one of these inspectors. About the Ada handicap compliance law. I was served about a week before covid-19 virus put us on lockdown. I’ve been so upset depressed before this. I found out I have 12 months to live I have stage 4 colon cancer. I’m approaching my 9th month I’m a single mother of four. I’ve been confined to my house since covid-19. Since we in lockdown and everything was closed I failed to respond and the case is now in default. His lawyer specialty is the Ada compliance. She is asking for a settlement. I’m so stressed upset and depressed over all of this. I want to know who was in charge of letting me know out of all these inspectors that I went through. alcohol beverage control or health department or fire Marshal or city inspectors that inspected my building didn’t bring it to my attention. City inspectors have brought things to my attention and I comply knowing other businesses close in my proximityas in not only my city their City have been sued over this same exact issues. Because it’s not a building cold in the city doesn’t my city have courtesy for its business owners. It’s not a building code in Pico Rivera but it is a building code in California. The law is allowing these frivolous lawsuits. I’m dying I won’t be here long. My concerns are with my family. His lawyer ought to be ashamed of herself.
At least prepare your defense with all the work your father has on file and add your info showing good faith and compliance.
In relation to being notified, I’m not clear what type of matter you missed, however one must be served showing a time/ date, etc.
And usually a chance to prepare a response.
I would also provide officials with your medical status showing a reasons you are
delayed and plea for a later date so you may find the help needed.
I don’t know you, but personally
I would find the guide to respond and with your father and pride within you, all that is needed is the voice to explain your position and have faith.
Julie, do you not know that some of your customers have disabilities? How could you run a business and never give them any thought in this day and age with all the information out there about buildings and services being required to comply with disability ACCESS laws? You have only yourself to blame, Dear. These customers matter!
This is abusive lawsuits threatening and targeting immigrants, minority to extort money.
We need to stop this abuse. Especially in California this is money extortion. They put the cases in the highest court so no choice but settle if any money or close small business. Stop this abuse!!!!!