Another Shakedown ADA Lawsuit Against a CA Business Shows the Need for Reform

Just ask small businessman Jerry Brannon in Stockton.  He recently got sued by Scott Johnson for $38,000 for non-compliance with the Americans With Disability Act. However, instead of settling, Mr. Brannon has decided to fight. He plans to spend up to $50,000 fighting this lawsuit.

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According to a television news report, “Scott Johnson has made legal claims against many business owners in the Sacramento area, claiming he’s suffered because his disability won’t allow him to fully access their stores and restaurants.”

Brannon said Johnson has “taken the ADA and made a business out of it.”

According to the news report, Johnson has been linked to thousands of lawsuits. 

I applaud Mr. Brannon on multiple fronts. This is not going to stop until the federal and state governments seriously pass legislation to stop these forms of lawsuit abuse. In 2008, the California State Legislature attempted to deal with the issue with SB 1608, which did not have the desired outcome. In 2012, the California State Legislature again attempted to find a way to stop the abuse with SB 1186 and this has also failed to stem the tide of abuse. The federal government has had a couple of bills related to ADA shakedowns lawsuits, but they have never been passed.

So here we are in 2014 and the lawsuits keep rolling. From Lake Tahoe to the Central Valley, we continue to see ADA lawsuits against small businesses, and there appears to be no end in sight. Interesting fact: there are more than 3.5 million small businesses in the state of California but only 500 Certified Access Specialists. How is every small business supposed to stay up to date when there aren’t enough access specialists?

When a business has to close due to an ADA shakedown lawsuit, no one benefits. Employees lose their jobs and governments lose revenue from employment property taxes. Who benefits from that scenario? Not even the disabled will benefit as everyone will simply have to travel further for those services.

I know there will be ADA legislation in California in the coming year and I am hopeful that with the changes in the U.S. Senate reform may be easier to pass in Washington. We, as a nation, need something to happen to help curb this abuse. It would behoove our legislators to find a reasonable compromise. A 120-day corrective action period at the state and federal level would stop these predators in their tracks. Let’s do it. Enough rearranging of deck chairs – let’s find a real solution.

Tom Scott is Executive Director, California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

This piece was originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily


  1. “Has filed many lawsuits” that is a severe understatement; for several years Scott N. Johnson has had over 100 law suits pending in any given year since he started his quest. His actions are despicable but what is worse is the California’s building code does not meet Federal ADA standards and I don’t believe it ever has. So who is really at fault here, California’s legislators.

  2. NorCal Libertarian says

    I was understanding that legislation against this vulture and his kind was passed three years ago? I attended that hearing and while Beth Gaines’ rational arguments were not supported by the liberal attorneys on the dais, it was my understanding that Herr Steinberg was going to take this up in the senate. In my opinion, this man is a pathetic excuse of a human being! He does not represent the views of this 80%-rated disabled combat veteran who has managed to live his live without even thinking of suing a business or individual for MY physical problem. If a business is not in compliance, I WON’T FREQUENT IT!
    Good luck Mr. Brannon and I hope you bleed this leech dry…even to taking the wheels off his chair!

  3. Sandra Lee Smith says

    What’s the hassle? A non-compliant business doesn’t want my business, I take it elsewhere. His loss. Such lawsuits hurt innocent people and rause costs for everyone!

  4. retired and glad of it says

    I am a disabled person who witnessed unknown amounts of tax money in the LA area go to breaking down corner curbs and putting in ramps. This was to ease the progress of wheelchairs from block to block. The consequence was, it made the sidewalks riskier as the skateboarders progressed from block to block.

    Sincere efforts by many restaurants in older buildings to make restrooms more accessible often failed. Whatever the standards were at the time, they could not force their limited available space to comply, though they tried and were evidently OK’d by the inspectors/nannies. I can’t imagine that the loss of my custom made much difference to any restaurant owner, but the costs of trying to comply did.

    ADA was well-intentioned. I took advantaged many times of curb-to-airplane wheelchair service when navigating huge air terminals. I appreciated nearby parking. But handicapped people are not all dealing with the same disabilities and forcing business owners into cookie-cutter compliance is wasteful, and let’s face it, abused by perfectly healthy but selfish people, and like most other well-meaning regulations in today’s world, sets up a government-created protection racket operated in our halls of justice.

    “Disabled” means you are not able. “Handicapped” means you do not start at the same level of ability as the next guy. Well, here’s a flash for you: in some way or another, we are all disabled or handicapped when compared in some way to the next guy. We are not equal in ability. We are not as fast, as skilled, as smart. We are not cloned to a certain standard. So give up punishing the entrepreneur, the mom-and-pop, the old family establishment. Just one more nail in the coffin of the American economy.

    How about selling the property owner on the virtues and benefits to his business of easy access? Making changes voluntary? Demonstrating the value to those who can afford it? Leave the old and traditional to the lovers of the old and traditional, and let those who are able, build for those who are not.

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