Disability Rights Lawyer Scott Johnson Targets Burger Stand, Forces It To Close

Scott Johnson; Americans with Disabilities Act; ADA

The poor economy brought Ford's Real Hamburgers to the brink. But the owners of the Sacramento, Calif., burger stand say they finally had to close when they became the target of a disability rights crusader. Without the cash on hand to make its bathroom handicapped-accessible, Ford's says that after more than two decades of business it was forced to fry its last patty.

Scott Johnson, a quadriplegic, sued the burger stand on Sept. 7, claiming that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the ADA, all public accommodations must make "reasonable modifications" so that disabled people can enjoy the place like anybody else.

Johnson claimed that the burger stand's lack of disabled parking and an accessible restroom caused him to experience "difficulty, discomfort and embarrassment" on the two times he visited, and made him feel like "a second class citizen." His lawsuit requested a court order to force Ford's to make renovations, as well as attorney's fees and the minimum damages for discrimination: $4,000 for each offense.

More: Best Way For Disabled Workers To Find A New Job

"We scrimped and saved and cut down the staff. I'm down to six employees," owner Hank Vereschzagin told Sacramento TV station KTXL. But there just wasn't the money to renovate the 60-year-old building. "I don't know what I'm going to do next," he added. "I just know I can't keep this open."

Ford's is far from the first small business to be targeted by Johnson, an attorney who was disabled by a hit-and-run drunken driver in 1981. Back in 2010 Sacramento's KXTV reported that, since the early 2000s, Johnson had sued more than 1,000 businesses to enforce the ADA in Northern California,

Johnson has claimed that his average settlement is between $4,000 and $6,000, which means that his compensation may add up to the millions. But he says that it's in the service of a larger cause -- pushing businesses to be ADA-compliant.

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Fellow wheelchair-user and longtime Ford's customer, Jerry Sylvia, said that he doesn't feel as if Johnson is fighting for him, however. "He's strictly crusading on his own behalf," he told KTXL.

And Johnson has made many enemies over the years, including local radio host Joe Getty, who has accused Johnson of "bold-faced extortion masquerading as trying to help the handicapped." "It's crime," he told KXTV. "It's legalized crime."

And what Johnson is doing is, in fact, legal. The controversy swirling around his lawsuits, Johnson has said, simply shows how reluctant many business owners are to ensure that they don't discriminate against the disabled. "I bring change," he told KXTV. "People resist change."






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Filed under: Employment News

Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

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philips0811

Let's be clear. This man is well known. He is a shakedown artist, nothing more, and calling him a "disability rights attorney" is an insult. He shakes a business down, they settle rather than fight, and he pockets the money.

January 28 2013 at 3:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ken

Too bad the drunk driver that ran into him, didn't have had better aim. He's a scumbag now, and he probably always was.

October 06 2012 at 10:07 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jbrian922

Man that guy is an *******! They should've tried to just change it by putting up a sign saying "no public restroom" maybe it would've worked?

October 06 2012 at 6:51 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
kevin

What the hell does a qudraplegic need with a parking space and bathroom? He dosent drive and hopefully uses a Colostomie bag. If he didn't like his first visit why did he go back? Looks like his life is shitty so he has to make everyone elses life shitty as well. To bad another small American buisness had to die because of P.C. Mabye one day the laws of survival will apply and P.C. will be will be a forgotten nightmare.

October 05 2012 at 5:50 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
babby201

Just because the man is in a wheelchair does not mean He's incapeable of being a scumbag .

October 03 2012 at 11:47 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Deborah

It appears that his accident has had a more devastating affect upon his character than his body.

October 03 2012 at 2:59 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
celtic0k9

have a look at this story posted below -- this parasite Scott Johnson is at it again forcing the closure of another small business in the Sacramento area. This scumbag is a real piece of work --- that DUI hit-and-run driver that ran him over should have backed up and finished off the job 30 years ago.....

http://fairoaks-carmichael.patch.com/articles/six-months-in-and-jessie-s-country-kitchen-is-closed

October 02 2012 at 5:49 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
celtic0k9

have a look at this story posted below -- this parasite Scott Johnson is at it again forcing the closure of another small business in the Sacramento area. This scumbag is a real piece of work --- that DUI hit-and-run driver that ran him over should have backed up and finished off the job 30 years ago.....

http://fairoaks-carmichael.patch.com/articles/six-months-in-and-jessie-s-country-kitchen-is-closed

October 02 2012 at 5:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
grant06

This law has been on the books since 1990 (over twenty years ago) and this owner has not had the bucks EVER to put in some hand rails and widen a stall for a wheelchair (if the room is too small there is NO requirement to modify the building, just remove the stall altogether)? Could have been done (and has been by tens of thousands of businesses) in an afternoon and a couple of hundred bucks.

October 02 2012 at 1:31 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
Zorro

Hate to be the one to say it but to bad the drunk did not finish him off.

October 02 2012 at 1:10 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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