PALO ALTO (KPIX) — Scott Johnson, a California attorney and quadriplegic who is behind thousands of American with Disabilities Act lawsuits, is now suing dozens of businesses along the Peninsula.
Tony Han, director of operations for 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 took another financial blow from Scott Johnson’s ADA lawsuit.
“We’re just glad to come out on the other end,” Han said. “Then it just got crashed by this thing and we don’t know what to do. A lot of our neighboring businesses got hit at the same time.”
Among dozens of other businesses slapped with a lawsuit is Stephanie Wansek’s Palo Alto restaurant Bistro Maxine.
“I had four letters from competing defense attorneys, that’s how I found out that I had a lawsuit,” Wansek said.
Both she and Han said that, after speaking to other business owners, the majority of the lawsuits target the outdoor parklets that were built during the pandemic.
“It’s all very vague, very vague and all similar through all these lawsuits,” Han said.
The lawsuit against Tai Pan claims that Johnson visited the restaurant twice and that it lacked “sufficient knee or toe clearance under the outside dining surfaces for wheelchair users.” Both Han and Wansek claim that Johnson never physically came to their establishments.
“None of our staff actually recognize this person,” Han said. “We look at pictures, he’s a very recognizable guy.”
“In our case, he sent other people who took pictures,” Wansek said. “The lawsuit says he intends to come back once we have things compliant and, no, I don’t believe he intends to come back.”
Wansek estimates it’ll cost them around $15,000 each if they settle with Johnson but the business owners are searching for an attorney who wants to fight the lawsuits.
They said that had Johnson simply told them they were not ADA compliant, they would have made the changes immediately.
“It’s already been tough enough for small businesses, especially restaurants,” Han said. “We just want to figure a better way out.”