Reporting Anjali Hemphill
YUBA CITY (CBS13) – A disability debacle is playing out in Yuba City as officials are paying a man to stay away. And because of it, he’s cashing in.
Yuba City officials say the man is attacking small business owners with frivolous lawsuits.
This settlement agreement is the first of its kind in the state, and while it does give the city and businesses a moment of relief from one man, it also opens the floodgates for others to cash in on their decision.
Owners of JJ’s Tools and Merchandise shop off Gray Avenue say they are relieved a notorious local man will not be able to target their business over Americans with Disabilities Act compliance laws.
“We’d probably have to close it down. We do not have the capital; we’re barely breaking even,” owner Jayne Sawyer said.
The city agreed to pay George Louie $15,000 for him to stop bringing frivolous lawsuits against them and area businesses.
“It’s just sad because it’s not what the law intended to do,” said Sawyer.
Louie most recently was behind a a hefty lawsuit against the city over disability access at several of its intersections, costing them tens of thousands of dollars.
Mr. Louie has a reputation for filing numerous claims, and it’s problematic,” City Manager Steven Jeasen said.
Louie can no longer file ADA lawsuits within Yuba City limits, and the agreement also dropped any lawsuits that were currently active. But the city says the agreement doesn’t mean they or businesses can slack on complying with the laws.
“What if someone else comes in and tries to pull the same thing?” I asked.
“Unfortunately that will probably happen. We have our fingers crossed our local businesses are making the improvements,” Economic Development Manager Darin Gale said.
The city says it doesn’t plan on paying out again.
“We are definitely not here to be a bank for some of these advocates to continue to sue the city or local businesses,” said Gale. “But in this case, we went through the process and it’s in the best financial interest of the city, and we don’t plan on doing it again.”
Meanwhile, city officials say they spend around $300,000 a year upgrading and maintaining their sidewalks to make them more accessible.