Easy Access: Chicago shops large & small latest targets of growing trend of ADA Title III accessibility lawsuits

By Stephanie N. Grimoldby | Apr 6, 2016

CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) - Fabiola Tyrawa believes she knows all of the customers at her Chicago coffee shop, but she couldn’t put a face on the name of the woman who sued her.

“I’m really close with my customers,” said Tyrawa, owner of Fabcakes at North Wells and East Superior in River North. “I know everybody coming in. I know everybody coming out. I know everybody’s name.”

So, in 2015, when she and her shop were sued by a woman with disabilities who claimed she couldn’t enter the shop without assistance, Tyrawa said she was floored.

The lawsuit, brought under the Title III public accommodation provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, alleged Chicago resident Mary Mizerk, who suffers from osteoarthritis and uses a wheelchair, could not independently enter Fabcakes because the existing entrance ramp was too steep and left too little space to open the door and enter the shop.

Mizerk was represented by attorney John L. Steele, of the Accessibility Law Group in Chicago and formerly of Prenda Law - a firm that has famously faced legal repercussions over its long-running controversial practice of pursuing quick settlements from people suspected of illegally downloading pornographic films.

Ultimately, Tyrawa and her landlords settled their case, paying $2,500 each.

But it left a bad taste in the mouth of the coffee shop owner, who says a handful of her regular customers are from the Chicago-based disability advocacy group Access Living and have had no issue entering the shop with their wheelchairs.

“It would have cost $10,000 to $20,000 [to fight the lawsuit],” Tyrawa said. “I’m a small business. I don’t have that kind of money.”

To read the entire article, visit the Cook County Record.

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