An appeals court has ruled that the Florida federal judge who penalized a serial lawsuit-filer and his attorney for filing frivolous Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claims was right to do so, according to a report in Legal Newsline.
The August decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit gave the stamp of approval to Judge Paul Huck, who in 2019 ordered a man who had filed 26 lawsuits against gas stations without exhausting all pre-litigation remedies and his lawyer to pay thousands of dollars to a disability advocacy group. The suits alleged that videos playing at gas pumps violated the ADA because they did not include closed captioning.
Most of the cases provided no remedial relief but instead resulted only in settlements that the plaintiff and his lawyer split 50-50. According to the 11th Circuit, this arrangement constituted a “serious ethical transgression” in violation of Florida Bar rules.
Proof that the two were driven by the pursuit of money – not access – came in an email when they discussed taking out language in one case that noted the defendant had refused to turn off the videos entirely, Huck ruled. They decided not to include that statement because it could give other defendants the idea to turn off their videos to avoid litigation. The email said they did not want to “sabotage” their strategy.
The lawyer in the case was reported for his behavior to the Florida Bar and was ultimately suspended for 18 months.