HESPERIA — Councilman Russ Blewett blasted the attorney handling the lawsuit against Casa Delicias restaurant and called for the community to come to the support of the eatery.
Blewett told his fellow councilmen during the Nov. 1 meeting that the plaintiff, Daniel Lopez, needs to “man-up” and that the American Disabilities Act-based lawsuit is motivated by “money.”
Casa Delicias owners Adrian and Margarita Olvera said they were served legal papers after Lopez claimed to have “experienced distress” at the Hesperia store when he encountered a faded handicapped parking space logo and a service counter that was not ADA compliant.
According to Adrian Olvera, Lopez’s attorney is asking for $10,000 for legal fees and $4,000 for his client. The case will cost the Olvera family and the business, located on the corner of Hesperia Road and Yucca Street, close to $30,000, the family said.
The Center for Disability Access, a division of Potter Handy, LLP, is representing Lopez, a paraplegic resident who cannot walk and uses a wheelchair for mobility, according to documents from the United States District Court, Central District of California.
“I want to make a charge before the state bar to go after this attorney,” said Blewett, who is handicapped and uses a motorized scooter for mobility. “I want to make this attorney’s life a living hell.”
Jeff and Natalie Morrison, owners of Angel Rock and Sand in Victorville, said they were also served with papers about two months ago from the Center for Disability Access, which was also representing a paraplegic resident from Los Angeles by the name of Daniel Lopez. It is unknown if this is the same person suing Casa Delicias.
Multiple messages left with Potter Handy, LLP, have not been returned, but not all High Desert residents are angry with the lawsuits.
Joy Ely said she’s glad that Lopez is suing Casa Delicias, remarking that “someone needs to take action” against businesses that aren’t ADA compliant.
Ely, who is missing her left hand and several toes on her left foot due to a horse accident, said she’d also like to contact Potter Handy, LLP, to file a lawsuit over several High Desert businesses that are not ADA compliant.
“It’s not about the money for me, but it’s all about businesses that don’t accommodate their handicapped customers,” Ely said. “Sometimes I use a cane or a walker and I can’t tell you how many times I have encountered hard to open double-doors or handicapped spaces that aren’t marked.”
Ely, who lives in Apple Valley, said a Casa Delicias “employee brushed me off” after she informed them about the eatery’s alleged ADA violations.
“I’ve been up here in the High Desert for about nine years and I can tell you that Riverside is 90 percent better when it comes following ADA laws than the High Desert,” Ely said. “I try to patronize these places, but sometimes I can’t get in.”
Margarita Olvera said her restaurant had never received any complaints over ADA violations and would have corrected them immediately if it had.
Alejandro Pena, who uses a motorized wheelchair, told the Daily Press the handicapped community has been mostly underserved and “ignored” by many small businesses who aren’t forced by a corporation to abide by ADA standards.
“Go to McDonald’s and everything is designed for people who are handicapped,” said Pena, 71, who lives in Hesperia. “Now, go to a small restaurant or shop on Main Street and I’ll guarantee you it’ll be hard as hell for someone with a wheelchair or walker.”
Pena said he would never sue a business that did not comply with the ADA, but added that he would show his frustration by not “spending his hard earned dollar” there and telling his friends and family not to patronize the business.
Blewett said he supports Rep. Ken Calvert, who testified before the Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice of the House Judiciary Committee last May in support of the ACCESS Act, H.R. 241, which he introduced last year.
The ACCESS Act, which was referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice in February 2015, is designed to help small businesses comply with the ADA by providing a written notice specific enough to identify barriers and to provide a written description outlining improvements that will be made to remove such barrier.
“The ADA is an incredibly important law for disabled Americans and Congress needs to act to ensure it continues to benefit the disabled rather than trial lawyers,” said Calvert in a news release. “Far too many small businesses in California and around the country are being targeted by lawyers who are more concerned with lining their pockets than actually improving access for the disabled.”
Calvert said his bill “makes a common sense reform” that will actually improve access for the disabled “while protecting American job creators.”
Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa Cruz@VVDailyPress.com or on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.