Thursday, April 7, 2011

Popular Davis, Calif., burger joint sued for ADA violations

From News 10 TV:

DAVIS, Calif. - A disabled attorney who has sued more than 1,500 businesses under the Americans with Disabilities Act has turned his attention to a popular diner that once made news because of its distasteful name.

Scott N. Johnson filed an ADA lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, claiming he was unable to dine at Redrum Burger because the doors, tables, service counter and restrooms are not accessible to wheelchairs. Johnson also noted the lack of disabled parking spaces.

Redrum Burger, which opened in 1986 as Murder Burger, changed its name in 2001 after complaints from customers. Much of the diner's business is takeout, served through sliding windows at the front of the building.

Owner Jim Edlund said he remembers receiving a warning letter from Johnson, but believed his building was exempt because it was built in 1949.

"I've always prided myself on doing the right thing," Edlund said.

An analysis of federal court records shows Johnson has represented himself in at least 1,586 ADA cases since 2003.

In an interview last year, Johnson defended his activity, claiming to be an agent of change for the rights of the disabled. He typically settles the cases for between $4,000 and $6,000.

A similar ADA lawsuit in 2009 filed by a different plaintiff against Sacramento's Squeeze Inn hamburger restaurant led the owner to abandon his tiny landmark location and move to a larger building around the corner.

Sacramento attorney Michael Welch defended the Squeeze Inn at no cost and the lawsuit was eventually dropped, but by then owner Travis Hausauer had already committed to the move.

Welch said he would also represent Redrum Burger for free against what he called "legalized extortion."

"I'm really upset about these cases," Welch said. "This guy (Johnson) has to be stopped."