Wednesday, April 1, 2009

McD's cameo in a campaign against frivolous lawsuits

A business advocacy group aiming to curb bounty-hunting lawsuits has enlisted a restaurateur as its new poster person. But apparently the chain of which he is a part, a burger outfit called McDonald's, doesn't want a listing in the credits.

The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform has posted a video on its Faces Of Lawsuit Abuse website that stars Ron Piazza, identified as a fast-food restaurateur in Downey, Calif. The clip, also posted on YouTube, shows Piazza recounting how his Downey, Calif., restaurant was sued because a men's room mirror was two inches higher than the height standard indicated in American With Disabilities Act regulations.

Piazza explains that the violation innocently occurred because vandals had destroyed a mirror that was in compliance with the rules. Inadvertently, the staff had replaced it with a slightly shorter one. When Piazza learned of the inadvertent violation, he recounts on camera, he replaced it with a regulation mirror.

But in the meantime, he says, certain parties--identified by Piazza, but presumably disabled persons--visited the restaurant 27 times, saving their receipts as proof. About four months ago, they sued Piazza for failing to meet ADA specifications.

Piazza noted that his name and telephone number is on all of the restaurant's receipts. If the parties had a legitimate gripe, or felt the mirror's height was a problem for them, they could have called, he points out. He also asserts that they seemed organized, and the Chamber indicates that the same parties sued other restaurants in the area for ADA infractions.

The point is obvious: Bounty hunters picked Piazza's restaurants for one of their legal shake-downs. They did it in an opportunity-hunting fashion that has prompted some to tag the resulting legal actions as drive-by lawsuits.

What's puzzling is why Piazza's restaurant isn't identified by name. A Google search reveals that it's one of the original McDonald's unit, a store that opened back in 1953, when Speedee was still the concept's mascot. Indeed, the place is even listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Those details underscore how ridiculous the lawsuit is. Clearly the plaintiffs were aware of the restaurant's affiliation with such a deep-pocketed chain. And what better place to hunt for ADA infractions than in a 56-year-old facility?

Still, you have to wonder why McDonald's wouldn't allow its name to be mentioned. Perhaps it doesn't want to give other bounty hunters ideas. The Chamber's attempt to curb frivolous lawsuits may be ambitious indeed.

Here's the video:

1 comment:

AFellow said...

Why not list the name(s) of the plaintiffs? Is that available? They should be vilified. Also, isn't there a demand requirement in the statute? Meaning that the plaintiff should have to prove that s/he made the request and the defendant refused to remedy the problem. There should be, if not.