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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Easy Access: Shops hit with ADA accessibility lawsuits likely to be targets of 'serial litigators'

By Stephanie N. Grimoldby | Apr 7, 2016

Photo provided by LaSalle Flowers

CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) - Earlier in the year, Margie Milovich’s neighbor had been hit with a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But she said it still didn’t prepare her for the moment the same plaintiff delivered a similar lawsuit to the door of LaSalle Flowers, a family-owned River North flower shop at 731 N. LaSalle, dating back to the 1930s.

“It was a complete shock,” said Milovich, who has managed the flower shop for 21 years. “No one has ever had an issue purchasing flowers here.”

The flower shop is located around the corner from Fabcakes, a breakfast and coffee shop that was sued earlier in the year by the same party, Chicago resident Mary Mizerk and her attorney, John L. Steele, of the Accessibility Law Group and formerly of Prenda Law.

The suit alleged that Mizerk, who has osteoarthritis and uses a wheelchair, could not enter the flower shop on her own because the doorway was about 5 inches higher than the sidewalk.

The civil suit, brought under Title III of the ADA, was one of several filed by Mizerk and Steele against businesses within several blocks of each other in Chicago’s River North neighborhood.

And that fact was not lost on Milovich.

“This lawyer is targeting mom-and-pop places,” she said of Steele. “There have been 14 lawsuits [nearby] … 14 of our local shops. He’s not going after the big people, [he’s targeting] small restaurants, small salons, small neighborhood pubs.”

Many businesses and defense attorneys find issue with such “serial” or “drive-by” filings, particularly because they stem from a handful of plaintiffs and lawyers.

Of the 94 ADA Title III lawsuits filed in 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, 77 were brought by only eight plaintiffs, each represented by the same legal counsel.

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

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