Mr. Long Term Care
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An Interview with Clint Eastwood

by Mr. LTC

Clint Eastwood speaks with Mr. Long-Term Care about 'Rogue' ADA Access Suits

Question
Mr. Eastwood, I've spoken with Congressman Mark Foley about the concerns that both of you share regarding a rash of lawsuits claiming discrimination under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); litigation that many business owners have characterized as "frivolous." Would you tell my readers a bit about your personal situation?

Answer
Sure, I have a hotel in Carmel, California which was built in the nineteenth century initially as a farm, and then converted into a hotel in the thirties. I bought the hotel in 1986 to preserve and refurbish it, which including adding bathrooms for the disabled. Monterey County officials have inspected the building many times and there has never been a problem. In fact, we had to get over 50 permits to begin renovating, because the hotel was so old. When I first bought it, it was held together by termites holding hands. It took a lot of work. I was recently sued by a woman who claims she came in a year ago and asked "some employee" to use the bathrooms, and was told there were no bathrooms she could use. Because the lawsuit was filed a year after the alleged incident, none of my employees remember talking to the plaintiff, and the plaintiff has conveniently forgotten which employee it was. The problem with these lawsuits is that regardless of their merit or how frivolous they appear, once they've been filed, you're stuck.

Question
How do you mean "stuck?"

Answer
I had been refurbishing the hotel for more than a decade, but now, until this suit is resolved, it's difficult to get on with my life and continue working on the hotel. Anyway, it turns out that the same lawyer and plaintiff involved in my lawsuit are involved in a number of other similar lawsuits. Some of these people have become professional litigants, often getting insurers to settle quickly because they don't want the hassle. But when the plaintiff's lawyer in my case had tried that approach, my insurance company didn't buy it. So here we are.

I recently appeared before a Congressional subcommittee on this issue, and told the committee that this kind of abuse of the ADA amounts to legalized racketeering. Often, the attorneys in these cases act like as self-appointed vigilantes, claiming that they do it because of their concern over the disabled and their rights. I was even told by someone in the Attorney General's office the Justice Department has yet to sanction any experts in ADA case law. And with no experts, where's the baseline?

Question
As I understand it, both you and Congressman Foley are suggesting that when business owners are confronted with ADA violations by a potential litigant, the business owner should have an opportunity to fix the problem before a lawsuit is filed.

Answer
That's right, I'm suggesting that business owners should have at least 30 days to make the necessary changes before any lawsuit is filed. In my case, the legislation wouldn't have helped, because the plaintiff claims that the bathrooms didn't exist, when in fact they did. But you know what really makes me angry? How does a law get passed that does not give damages to the plaintiff (the disabled person), but does give fees to the attorneys? That's the part that seems so inequitable. Legitimate cases would be the only ones to hit the courts if we had a warning period, because most business people would say, "Sure, I'll fix the problem" and that would be the end of that.

Question
What's next?

Answer
I'm not quite sure. For every argument that Mark Foley makes, and I make, a lot of small groups of lawyers are screaming out loud, and they get the disabled people who are in collusion with them on these professional litigations to scream loudly that they are the defenders of the disabled. But they're not the defenders. They're using this scam to make a tremendous amount of money, and in many cases, the disabled are making whatever amount of money the lawyer decides to give them - a token fee for participating in this.

Question
Tell me a little more about your hotel.

Answer
It has a very beautiful view, and for years we've catered primarily to older couples. They arrive about 5 PM for dinner and make an evening of it. We're very grateful for all the visitors we've had over the years. And in all those years, no significant complaints -- untill this law suit. In fact, I was there yesterday, and a fellow in a wheelchair came out, and he said, "You know, I came out here just to see what all the hubbub was about, and I find no problem at all here." I thanked him and asked him if he's be so kind as to drop a note to the manager, because these lawyers are trying to give the impression that we're deliberately disobeying laws here, and it's not true.