PHOENIX (Legal Newsline) - Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is urging a state court to consolidate nearly 1,300 lawsuits filed against small businesses by what he has described as an alleged serial litigator.
“If these cases are consolidated, and the State is permitted to intervene as a limited purpose defendant, the State intends to file a motion seeking dismissal of all consolidated cases on the basis of threshold questions of law and fact common to all consolidated cases, including, but not limited to, Plaintiffs lack of standing,” the attorney general wrote in his motion, filed Aug. 30.
“Consolidation would thus allow the court to resolve in one instance threshold questions common to over 1,000 cases, benefiting the parties involved in cases, providing consistent adjudication of these issues, and reducing the burden on the court system.”
The plaintiffs, David Ritzenthaler, a disabled man, and Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities LLC, allegedly circumvented the legal process by claiming to look into supposed violations of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA.
The Phoenix-based AID provides assistance to those with physical and mental disabilities. According to its website, AID and its charitable foundation were formed in January 2016. Their mission “strongly promotes” increasing awareness of their services within the disabled community.
“By taking affirmative action towards commercial and business locations that are not ADA compliant they are quickly bringing about a wave of compliance,” a recent news release stated.
But, according to Brnovich’s office, the plaintiffs are merely engaging in “trolling” litigation tactics designed to coerce defendants into quick payments.
The attorney general argues that time is of the essence for those small businesses that have been targeted.
“As noted above, the clock is ticking for defendants in many of these cases to file responsive motions or pleadings,” Brnovich wrote in his 13-page motion.
“Other defendants are already at risk of a default judgment, and in some cases, Plaintiffs are already seeking default judgments and thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees.”
Brnovich’s office already filed a motion to intervene on behalf of the State in Maricopa County Superior Court Aug. 24.
The attorney general claims Ritzenthaler and AID forced his hand, “flooding the court with lawsuits” and using the judicial system for their “own enrichment.”
According to Brnovich’s most recent motion, the plaintiffs have filed “well over” 1,500 complaints and their counsel has said in open court that they “will probably file 8,000 cases in the next two months.”
Based on the State’s own research, 1,289 cases filed by the plaintiffs remain active and pending in the superior court.
“Without consolidation, the risk of common legal questions being resolved inconsistently is very high,” the attorney general wrote in last week’s motion.
The motion asks the judge to consolidate the cases for the following limited purposes:
- Considering whether the complaints filed by the plaintiffs should be dismissed on the basis of common issues of law and fact; and
- Considering whether the court should issue any sanctions or other remedial orders.
If the judge agrees to allow the State to intervene as a limited purpose defendant, the State plans to file a motion seeking dismissal of all consolidated cases.
The State also requests the court hold a scheduling conference as soon as possible to extend deadlines in these cases until the common questions can be resolved, and that the court give expedited consideration to Brnovich’s motion to consolidate.
The State has taken no position on whether any violations exist in any particular case filed by the plaintiffs.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.