The Justice Files: ADA lawsuits gain no traction in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Kat Nelson lost everything after her business was sued for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We just didn’t lose a business,” said Nelson.  “We lost our home and we lost our means of making money.”

Nelson and her husband are in bankruptcy after a year of financial ruin.

They were once owners of Mystic Hobby Games, a video game store in Sandy that shut down after being they were sued.

“I was absolutely shocked,” said Nelson. “I could not believe someone was suing us over ADA compliance.” 

But Nelson wasn’t alone. In 2017 and 2018 hundreds of businesses were sued along with the Wasatch Front for violating the ADA act.

The lawsuits were filed by one attorney in federal court.  According to the federal record, James Ord filed 179 cases on behalf of three disabled people.

Last year, Ord talked with ABC4 News about the lawsuits.

“I got involved because the ADA, particularly the ADA rights have been in my periphery for a while,” he said.  “I’ve got members of my family who are disabled.”

But attorneys representing businesses who were sued claimed Ord was a hired gun.  Greg Hurley, an attorney for Smith’s Food said an Arizona law firm called Litigation Management and Financial Services was suing business throughout the west.

“They’re paying plaintiffs $50 to bring a lawsuit and plaintiffs counsel $100 and the idea in that agreement is that LMS would reap all the attorneys’ fees, if and when attorney fees were awarded,” Hurley told ABC4 News last year.

But a year later, the disability lawsuits didn’t gain much traction in Utah.

Of those 179 cases, three businesses settled; 12-cases remain active and the rest were dismissed. In one case, Ord was ordered to pay opposing attorney fees.  And requests for sanctions against Ord were denied by the judge overseeing the case.

The lawsuit against the Nelson’s was dismissed.  But it’s ironic because she too is disabled.

The ADA is important but doing it by putting small businesses out of business is not the way to do it,” Nelson said. “I have several health problems that disable me.  But where is my justice”

Attempts to reach attorney James Ord for this update story were unsuccessful.

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