Wednesday, January 05, 2005

More Molski

See this article from today's San Luis Obispo Tribune. A few grafs:

Jarek Molski will seek unspecified monetary damages from a Templeton winery even though a federal judge dismissed an Americans with Disabilities Act suit last week without awarding money, his attorney said Tuesday.

San Francisco attorney Thomas Frankovich said his client -- who is a paraplegic and uses a wheelchair -- will refile a lawsuit against Peachy Canyon Winery within two weeks in state Superior Court, asking for money because the tasting room didn't comply with the ADA when he visited in 2003.

"We've got to get compensated for the work we did to fix it," Frankovich said. "We went out and had an expert inspect it, told them what was wrong and tried to get a settlement.

"The fact remains that Peachy Canyon violated the law for (almost) 15 years," since the 1990 ADA was passed.

Peachy Canyon's attorney, Jere Sullivan, said he can't understand why Molski would refile given that the winery has made the necessary improvements to become ADA compliant, such as adding wheelchair ramps and a lower tasting bar.

Here's a bit of an article from yesterday's tribune that explains Judge Hatter's ruling:

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit without granting monetary damages after ruling that Peachy Canyon Winery made sufficient improvements to its Templeton tasting room to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The ruling comes in light of several other local businesses paying Jarek Molski, a paraplegic, around $15,000 to $25,000 to settle cases he brought -- thereby avoiding costly civil trials in federal court in Los Angeles.

U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr.'s decision is significant because it could lead the way for similar rulings for the more than 50 San Luis Obispo County businesses that were sued by Molski over alleged ADA violations, said Peachy Canyon's attorney, Jere Sullivan.

"I'd suggest that any other defendant file the same motion for summary judgment that we did," Sullivan said. "We proved to the satisfaction of the court that we fixed everything. My clients think what (Molski) does is extortion and he shouldn't be collecting money off this."

As I've said before, this is a complicated issue. On the one hand, Judge Hatter's ruling seems right. ADA Title III provides only for injunctive relief, and if it's clear that the restaurant has made architectural changes necessary to come into compliance, there's no longer any basis for an injunction (and the state-law damages claim can properly be handled in state court). On the other hand, it seems clear that Molski's suit was the only reason the restaurant came into compliance. His motives may not be the best in the world, but those motives seem to have resulted -- here, at least -- in a business finally complying with the law after 14 and a half years. The problem, of course, is that without the state-law money damages remedy that encourages plaintiffs like Molski to bring cases like this and lawyers like Frankovich to take them, this suit would never have been brought, and the restaurant would, it seems, never have complied with the law. As we all should have learned from Adam Smith, sometimes actions taken with self-interested motives can conduce to the public interest.


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