MANTECA (CBS13) — An attorney known for serial disability lawsuits small businesses is now targeting business owners in Manteca.
Now those owners and the city are working together to take businesses out of his crosshairs.
Business owners worry these lawsuits could potentially shut down all small business in downtown Manteca. So far more than 20 have been sued, and business owners worry it’s not stopping there.
“Our building is 62 years old. We’ve been in business for 50 years there,” said Kim Ward. “Just in paying him the restitution itself is almost $70,000 just for our business.”
The co-owner of The Hair Company say they are one of at least 22 Manteca businesses sued for not meeting Americans with Disabilities Act compliance standards.
Ward says they’ve never had an ADA complaint against their business until Carmichael attorney Scott Johnson slapped them with a lawsuit.
Johnson has filed lawsuits across Northern California for years. In October of 2012, Ford’s Hamburgers in the Land Park region of Sacramento shut down after a similar lawsuit, which the business’s owner says was the final nail in the coffin.
Just like in the 2012 case, Johnson didn’t return CBS13’s calls for comment.
Manteca senior building inspector Brad Wungluck spoke to more than 100 local business owners at a workshop on Wednesday who were concerned their buildings could be next.
“For a small business, they can’t afford it. So it’s frightening the number of businesses we might lose based on these lawsuits,” he said. “Some are 100 years old, and that’s where the majority of the lawsuits are, in that area downtown where they have old buildings.”
Daniel Kaiser, a state certified access specialist, told Manteca business owners that Johnson does have the legal right to sue them.
“He’s a disgrace as far as myself being a quadriplegic and having to deal with these issues myself,” he said. “People in town are more than happy to accommodate individuals if you just talk to them.”
Kaiser says it’s time for business owners to take some responsibility.
“We’ve got a lot of businesses here that haven’t been sued yet that now have the info to get out there and do something,” he said.
Some businesses in Manteca have already started work to comply with ADA requirements. For the ones who have already been served, it may be too late.
“This will put us out, no doubt about it,” Ward said.