It appears that ADA lawsuits are out of control in California due to a poorly designed law, and some disabled people are taking advantage.

Mundy is trolling for barriers to his patronage -- a threshold too high for his wheelchair, a parking lot with blue-striped access lanes narrower than eight feet, a public restroom where the coat hook on the back of the door, if there is one, is above his reach.

One fighter in a burgeoning army of crusaders for disabled access, Mundy says he has filed more than 150 lawsuits in 18 months demanding damages from small businesses in violation of the exacting requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Suing for ADA noncompliance has become a cottage industry for dozens of disabled Californians who have taken on the role of freelance enforcers of an often ignored federal statute. They secure piecemeal correction of offending premises and often enrich themselves and their lawyers in the process. ...

Divorced and jobless except for the self-assigned ADA work, Mundy won't say how much he has earned by filing lawsuits demanding five-figure sums then settling out of court with business owners keen to escape a costlier defense. Attorneys representing those he has sued estimate Mundy's proceeds at about $300,000 in little more than a year, and a similar sum for his attorney, Morse Mehrban, from Mundy's cases alone.

The problem isn't the Americans with Disabilities Act, its with California's implementation. Instead of complaints resulting first in a warning and only later imposing a fine if access is not provided, California lets "victims" recover thousands of dollars of damages immediately after the complaint.

"Confined to a wheelchair in California?" Mehrban asks potential clients on his website. "You may be entitled to $1,000 each time you can't use something at a business because of your disability."

If someone in a wheelchair has been doing laundry once a month for a year at a laundromat where the paper-towel dispenser is too high, "you're entitled to $12,000," the lawyer advertises. ...

Long Beach attorney Ted Batsakis has had four clients sued for ADA infractions over the past few months. He calls the litigation "an old Chicago-style shakedown." Like his clients, Batsakis said the law would be more just if it gave businesses 30 or 60 days to fix the problems.

No one has the right to make a living by extortion, even in the name of a good cause.

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