It's about time . . .
I'm a lawyer. I see situations in which litigation could be filed nearly every day.
But, as I counsel clients, just because litigation could be filed doesn't mean it should be filed. This guy is a prime example of someone who should not have filed litigation.
This plaintiff, Jarek Molski, and his attorney engaged in a campaign of legalized extortion. His premise is similar to that used by asbestos plaintiffs: sue everyone and see if they would rather settle than pay attorney's fees to defend themselves in court. Instead of threatening defendants with broken kneecaps or arson, he threatened to drain their pocketbooks and savings. Few restaurants fought back, as it was easier and cheaper to pay Mr. Molski $4,000.00 or so than to spend tens of thousands of dollars defending the specious litigation. One restaurant that did fight back spent over $60,000.00 before being vindicated.
Mr. Molski has been at this for over two years, and apparently netted over $1 million dollars in income from his litigious activities.
How bad is it? Well, in a recent Ninth Circuit decision, the Court of Appeals found that:
Molski and his lawyer Thomas Frankovich (”Frankovich”) were purportedly in the business of tracking down public accommodations with ADA violations and extorting settlements out of them. On cross examination, Molski acknowledged that: he did not complain to any of Cable’s employees about his access problems; he had filed 374 similar ADA lawsuits as of October 8, 2004; Frankovich had filed 232 of the 374 lawsuits; even more lawsuits had been filed since that date; Molski and Frankovich averaged $4,000 for each case that settled; Molski did not pay any fees to Frankovich; Molski maintained no employment besides prosecuting ADA cases, despite his possession of a law degree; Molski’s projected annual income from settlements was $800,000; Molski executed blank verification forms for Frankovich to submit with responses to interrogatories; they had also filed lawsuits against two other restaurants owned by Cable’s; they had filed a lawsuit against a nearby restaurant; and [Molski's private investigator] Sarantchin obtained up to 95% of his income from Frankovich’s firm for performing investigations for ADA lawsuits.Molski v. M.J. Cable, Inc. (cite unknown).
Unfortunately for him, a federal judge saw through his claims and barred him from filing any more ADA litigation in the Central District of California without permission from the Court. Ever. The decision was upheld on appeal by the Ninth Circuit. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, ending the litigation.
Molski's claims bordered on ludicrous. "Molski had claimed he injured himself at multiple businesses on the same day." A judge described Molski's alleged injuries as being "contrived":
Molski v. Mandarin Touch Rest., 347 F. Supp. 2d 860.
For example, in Molski v. El 7 Mares Restaurant, Case No. C04-1882 (N.D. Cal. 2004), Molski claims that, on May 20, 2003, he and significant other, Brygida Molski, attended the El 7 Mares Restaurant for the purposes of dining out. Molski alleges that the restaurant lacked adequate handicapped parking, and that the food counter was too high. After the meal, Molski attempted to use the restroom, but because the toilet’s grab bars were improperly installed, he injured his shoulders in the process of transferring himself from his wheelchair to the toilet. Thereafter, he was unable to wash his hands because of the lavatory’s design.
Although this complaint appears credible standing alone, its validity is undermined when viewed alongside Molski’s other complaints. In Molski v. Casa De Fruta, L.P., Case No. C04-1981 (N.D. Cal. 2004), Molski alleges that he sustained nearly identical injuries on the exact same day, May 20, 2003. In Casa de Fruta, Molski alleges that he and significant other, Brygida Molski, patronized Casa de Fruta for the purpose of wine tasting. On arrival, Molski was again unable to locate van accessible parking. Once inside, Molski again found the counter to be too high. After wine tasting, Molski again decided to use the restroom, and again, injured his upper extremities while in the process of transferring himself to the toilet. Thereafter, he was once again unable to wash his hands due to the design of the lavatory.
This was, apparently, not the end of Molski’s day. In Molski v. Rapazzini Winery, Case No. C04-1881 (N.D. Cal. 2004), Molski once again alleges that he sustained nearly identical injuries on the exact same day, May 20, 2003. Molski, again accompanied by Brygida Molski, claims he visited the Rapazzini Winery for the purpose of wine tasting. Again, Molski complains that the parking lot lacked adequate handicapped van accessible parking. Upon entering the establishment, he discovered that the counter was too high. After tasting wine, he again needed to use the restroom. In the course of transferring himself from his wheelchair to the toilet, he injured himself yet again. Thereafter, he was again unable to wash his hands due to the lavatory’s design.
The Court is tempted to exclaim: “what a lousy day!” It would be highly unusual — to say the least — for anyone to sustain two injuries, let alone three, in a single day, each of which necessitated a separate federal lawsuit. But in Molski’s case, May 20, 2003, was simply business as usual. Molski filed 13 separate complaints for essentially identical injuries sustained between May 19, 2003 and May 23, 2003. The Court simply does not believe that Molski suffered 13 nearly identical injuries, generally to the same part of his body, in the course of performing the same activity, over a five-day period. This is to say nothing of the hundreds of other lawsuits Molski has filed over the last four years, many of which make nearly identical allegations. The record before this Court leads it to conclude that these suits were filed maliciously, in order to extort a cash settlement.
The California Bar is also hearing an ethics complaint filed against Molski's lawyer, Thomas Frankovich. The complaint alleges that Frankovich filed claims against businesses, then tried to intimidate them into settling quickly (and without benefit of legal advice).
I'm glad this is happening. The ADA is an abysmal piece of legislation, with gaps big enough to drive a truck through it, doors open and horns-a-blaring. The fact that this idiot took the legislation this far shouldn't surprise us as much as the fact that our supposedly wise legislators enacted it to begin with.
I'm just surprised to hear of a California judge with the common sense to put a stop to this nonsense.
H/t Patterico's Pontifications for background information.