PALO ALTO (KPIX) – Scott Johnson, a California attorney and quadriplegic who is behind thousands of lawsuits under the U.S. Disability Act, is now suing dozens of companies along the peninsula.
Tony Han, manager of Tai Pan restaurant on Waverly Street in Palo Alto, said he was optimistic as business picked up for the first time since the pandemic began. Then his business suffered another financial blow from Scott Johnson’s ADA lawsuit.
“We’re just glad to come out the other end,” Han said. “Then this thing just crashed and we don’t know what to do. Many of our neighboring companies were hit at the same time. “
Among dozens of other companies hit with lawsuits is Stephanie Wansek’s Palo Alto Restaurant Bistro Maxine.
“I had four letters from competing defense lawyers, so I found out I had a lawsuit,” said Wansek.
Both she and Han said the majority of lawsuits target the outdoor parklets built during the pandemic, after talking to other business owners.
“It’s all very vague, very vague and similar in all of these lawsuits,” Han said.
The lawsuit against Tai Pan alleges that Johnson has visited the restaurant twice and that there is “insufficient knee or toe room under the outside dining areas for wheelchair users.” Both Han and Wansek claim Johnson never physically entered their facilities.
“None of our employees really recognize this person,” Han said. “We look at pictures, he’s a very recognizable guy.”
“In our case, he sent other people to take photos,” said Wansek. “The lawsuit states that he intends to return once things are compliant and no, I don’t think he has any intention of returning.”
Wansek estimates it will cost them around $ 15,000 each to come to terms with Johnson, but the business owners are looking for an attorney to fight the lawsuits.
They said if Johnson had simply told them they weren’t ADA compliant, they would have made the changes immediately.
“It was tough enough for small businesses, especially restaurants,” Han said. “We just want to find a better way out.”