'MANIPULATED' INTO ADA SUITS
by Josie Byzek
Remember Foley? No, not the catheter, the U.S. congressmanMark Foley. He's the Florida rep who keeps sponsoring the ADA notification act, a piece of legislation that says disabled folks must wait ninety days and say "pretty please may I come in" before they file suit against a business under the ADA.
Foley's also gone public saying most ADA lawsuits result from lawyers manipulating wheelchair users in order to make a buck or two off of access casescuz he knows wheelchair users don't really want access.
Of course, those of us who file ADA lawsuits know it's damn near impossible to get a lawyer to take the suits because there's no money in it. (One of the many compromises our advocates were forced to make to get the ADA at all was to forego punitive damages on Title III access lawsuits.) If a business gets caught with its pants down disobeying the 12-year-old law, the worst that can happen is that it can
be forced to comply with the law and pay legal fees.
Speaking of being caught with pants down, did you hear about the Florida quad who's suing the strip club for a lap dance? Edward Law, an Orlando resident, wants a private lap dance, like all the other guys in the club, but Wildside Adult Sports Cabaret's lap dance room is up a flight of steps and, possibly related to Law's wanting a lap dance, its bathroom's not accessible either. Law's got his attorney suing another strip club, too, for similar ADA violations.
Slam-dunk cases, simple access but our man Foley says these are examples of frivolous ADA lawsuits.
"These lawyers are making a mockery of the law," he moans. "Until notification becomes law, all you can ask is, `How low can they go?'" Foley has also said, "The disabled community should be outraged over the hijacking of a law meant to protect
their interests, not lawyers' assets."
Hey, does the lawyer get a lap dance too?
What I want to know: Does Foley really think some lawyer had to talk a guy into suing strip joints? Does he seriously believe that no red-blooded American quad could possibly want a lap dance? And what exactly does Foley think is frivolous about male sexuality? Is it only frivolous when a man can't walk?
If the strip club is public, then it needs to be accessible. There's nothing frivolous about access.
HIGH COURT NARROWS ADA, THEN PROHIBITS STATE KILLINGS OF 'RETARDED'
"They're taking a civil rights statute," said Jim Dickson of the American Association of People with Disabilities, "and interpreting it narrowly, as if it were the tax code." He referred to the Supreme Court's April ruling that companies need not bend their seniority rules to make job accommodations.
In June, the Court narrowed the law further, saying that entities receiving federal money cannot be sued for punitive damages. Jeffrey Gorman, a wheelchair user, was injured during a ride in a Kansas City police van after cops arrested him for trespassing at a country and western
bar. A jury awarded him $1 million in actual damages and another $1.2 million in punitive damages.
The Supremes reversed the ruling on punitive damages, saying that since the ADA does not call for such damages against private entities, Congress surely did not intend to demand them of public ones.
The Court had narrowed the ADA several times in 2002, making it more difficult for workers to get accommodations or to take jobs that would "threaten their lives or health."
It's the employer, not the employee, who will determine what's threatening. Sound familiar?
A Dangerous new stat
"Mental health experts believe," Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times reported in June, "that as many as 10 percent of those convicted of capital murder are mentally retarded." She added that "the generally accepted definition is an IQ of approximately 70 or less."
However it's definedand that will be up to individual states now the Supreme Court ruled that people convicted of M.R. can no longer be executed for their other crimes.
They can, though, as we all know, serve life sentences in most states just for flunking that IQ test. L.G.