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Friday, August 31, 2007

Wheelchair Hound

posted by on August 31 at 15:01 PM

My new favorite word is “vexatious,” which I learned reading about a 9th Circuit ruling today. The Court nailed an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) activist for his “vexatious” lawsuits.

Vexatious means annoying (or intending to annoy)óand the plaintiff was a serial litigant who filed pre-fab lawsuits against restaurants and other public facilities that failed to accommodate him. (He uses a wheelchair.)

Decision of the Day writes:

The Ninth Circuit has upheld a district court order declaring a crusader for disabled access to be a vexatious litigation … The defendants in this case - the Mandarin Touch Restaurant in Solvang - didnít want to wait around for a jury to rule on Molskiís claims. Instead, it fought back by asking the district court to sanction Molski and his law firm as vexatious litigants. After surveying Molksiís history of lawsuits, the district court obliged. Among other things, the district court found that Molski files identical complaints, all the way down to the typos, each alleging that he hurt his arm while trying to exit a too-narrow bathroom. Moreover, Molski hurts his arm this way several times a day, as thirteen of his complaints span the same five-day period. Molski also waits for a year before filing his complaints, so that his claimed damages of $4000 a day have already multiplied to over a million dollars before the case begins.

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I take it you're not familiar with Jane Austen.

Also, that's used as a standard legal term when dealing with discovery disputes, harassing litigation, etc.

Posted by Mr. Darcy | August 31, 2007 3:23 PM

I read about another asshole pulling the same stunt last year in the O.C. Weekly. Check it out here.

I hope they come down like a ton of bricks on this guy. Its one thing to seek accommodation, its a whole other deal to abuse the law to strike it rich.

Posted by Nick | August 31, 2007 4:10 PM

The Stranger again shows its incredible insight into disability questions.
Look, this guy pushed the envelope, but the ADA's only real enforcement mechanism is private litigation for accomodation. If you any of you able-bodied hipsters couldn't enter a building, a bathroom or a bus (are you still with me ECB?) without a not-very-expensive modification to said structure, you would discover that the world of for-profit business is still startling inaccessible to us folks on wheels TWENTY-FIVE years after the ADA supposedly changed all that. Why? Because many businesses won't make modifications until sued or threatenend with a lawsuit, and few folks with disabilities have the time or the resources to throw lawyers at everyone who shuts us out. If this guy found a way to make a living forcing open bathroom doors for me I am grateful (even if he made up the thing about his arm).

Posted by suren~o | August 31, 2007 5:16 PM

two questions come to mind. "do the ends justify the means" and exactly "which ends are being acheived?"
these are true for many slog postings.

Posted by Philip | September 1, 2007 2:59 AM

#4: depends on how noxious the means are and how valuable the ends. In this case, the means seem relatively innocuous, and the ends are compliance with civil rights law. So yes, these ends justify these means.

Posted by suren~o | September 1, 2007 9:52 AM

Agreed, comments 3 & 5. The businesses that got sued were not in compliance with an important civil rights law. One tiny clarification, if I may. The ADA was signed in 1990. So while 17 years should be plenty of time to make the necessary changes (which are limited in the law to those that are readily achievable and won't cause undue hardship to the business), it's short of the twenty-five mentioned.

Posted by bobo | September 1, 2007 12:09 PM

suren-o @ 3 says...

...but the ADA's only real enforcement mechanism is private litigation for accomodation.

That's fine, but what do you make of waiting so long to file so that he could claim millions of dollars? I'm sure it sucks to go to unaccommodating businesses but between lying about his arm, supposedly being hurt 13 times in five days, the greed angle, and the fact that his now-invalidated lawsuits mean that the businesses don't have to change, do you still think this guy did any good?

Posted by Matt from Denver | September 1, 2007 2:50 PM

suren-o @5 writes:

...the means seem relatively innocuous, and the ends are compliance with civil rights law...

I beg to differ.† The end seems to be personal enrichment, and the means are not innocuous at all.† Matt @7 spells it out well.

Josh's "ADA activist" label is too credulous; this guy should be called an ADA scam artist.

Suren-o, I'm all in favor of you getting the accommodation you need.† I hope you can recognize that Molski's actions hurt your cause, not help.

Posted by lostboy | September 2, 2007 9:35 PM

That guy from the O.C. is a piece of shit. He's putting mom and pop stores out of business by rolling into restroom stalls with a measuring tape ("this old building's bathroom has walls that are 2" too close together! You owe me $35,000 Mr. and Mrs. _______."

That's not an exaggeration.

Posted by Dougsf | September 4, 2007 1:34 PM

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