Tulare County man files dozens of ADA lawsuits, businesses feel targeted

Posted at 12:39 PM, Mar 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-30 15:41:45-04

A Tulare County man named Jose Trujillo is listed as the plaintiff in 31 federal lawsuits that have been filed since the start of 2017, including ten since the beginning of March, KFSN-TV in Fresno reported Thursday.

Among those being sued--two Visalia grocery stores, and a Flyers gas station. Wadoua Xiong, owner of Pho N' Seafood, was served with his last week.

"(My employees) said I need to come to the restaurant right away because we have a lawsuit or situation going on," Xiong said.

The complaint alleges denial of right of access under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA.

It says Trujillo is physically disabled because his walking and hearing abilities are limited, and he uses a wheelchair or cane for mobility.

It claims Trujillo's access to Pho N' Seafood was interfered with or denied during his visit on February 10th.

"My floor, they said that it was too thick -- they said that it was too thick so he cannot roll his wheelchair over (it). And when he rolls his wheelchair over people look at him so (it) makes him feel embarrassed," Xiong said.

Xiong isn't the only one that was hit with an ADA suit in Visalia's Lincoln Oval Park neighborhood.

Visalia Chamber of Commerce CEO Gail Zurek says 10 others are being sued, including Mini-Tropicana #2.

Zurek is outraged, and describes the lawsuits as legal extortion.

"These aren't businesses who are trying to exclude somebody," she said. "These are businesses who are trying to keep their doors open. ADA changes constantly and business owners are responsible for staying up on those changes. The level of changes, the number of times it changes-- its impossible for businesses to stay on top of. Someone like Jose Trujillo goes up and down and capitalizes on that change and makes money and profits off of it."

Assemblyman Devon Mathis introduced AB 150 in January to address the issue. The bill, currently in the committee stage, proposes to require plaintiffs in ADA suits to provide notice to a business at least six months before filing a complaint.

"When you hear stories about the things that you guys are getting sued over, and its copy/paste, there's a problem," Mathis said. "Give (the businesses) the opportunity to make good because everybody cares about our disabled population. I know everybody in my district, every chamber, every business owner cares, and wants to do the right thing here, but give them the opportunity to do it."

Xiong is hopeful that the affected businesses will band together, because he knows he can't afford to take the case to court.

"If we lose this, how are we going to find jobs for the family, and how are we going to survive," he said.

Action News called Mission Law Firm in San Jose today, but the attorney for Trujillo was unavailable.

Wednesday, a Fresno restaurant won a federal ADA lawsuit filed by San Jose-based Moore Law Firm because the restaurant has since updated their building and become ADA compliant.

The judge ruled by saying "To qualify as a case fit for federal court adjudication, an actual controversy must be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed."