Man Suing Local Businesses for Alleged ADA Violations

"I just want the establishments to fix it," said Raoul Marradi

A Boston man is suing dozens of area businesses for not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Jamaica Plain resident Raoul Marradi lives with cerebral palsy, and he is turning into one of the state's most prolific plaintiffs.

"I just want the establishments to fix it," said Marradi. He has sued dozens of businesses in Copley Square, Fanueil Hall, the North End, and Quincy, once filing 15 in just one day.

All are under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a 1990 civil rights law that prohibits disciminration against individuals with disabilities.

"I can't even get in through the front door," explained Marradi.

He claims many bars and restaurants have doors that are too narrow for his wheelchair, no ramps, or the place is just not up to ADA standards.

He sued Pho Pasteur, a Vietnamese noodle shop on Washington Street, for this reason.

The owner, Sau Cai, is trying to get the lawsuit dismissed.

"We been in business very long for 25 years. Nobody sue," said Cai. A judge ruled against the attempt.

"I don't think a lot of business owners are aware of these standards and if they are aware of it, it's pretty technical," said Cai's attorney Kier Wachterhauser, who says there are challenges for small business owners to be in compliance with the ADA.

"If you're off by inches, you're technically in violation. And you could be open to a lawsuit," said Wachterhauser.

Quincy's city attorney James Timmins settled and created more handicapped parking and seating at McCoy Field, and added curb cuts to streets. He considered fighting back, but he says it was just too much of a financial risk in the event that the case made it to court.

"We realized he was raising some legitimate concerns," said Timmins.

The law says no one is grandfathered in, but business owners adjust according to affordability.

Marradi is represented by two attorneys, including Ned Garno of Lowell.

"I think we got the best results for the clients by the lawsuit because a defendant is more apt to respond to that," said Garno.

Federal court records show this trio filed nearly 100 ADA lawsuits in Massachusetts in the past few years, and won settlements in almost every case.

"It might suggest they are filing lawsuits to get attorney's fees," speculated Stan Eichner of the Disability Law Center.

Eichner says what they're doing is perfectly legal, but he prefers sending a letter, giving businesses an opportunity to make changes.

"We virtually never bring litigation first," said Eichner.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is in charge of enforcing the ADA, and says there is room for private lawsuits.

"We can't be out there correcting every single violation of the ADA that exists. Nor does the statute envision that the federal government be doing that," said William Weinreb, acting the U.S. attorney for the district of Massachusetts.

Marradi initially agreed to take us to some of the bars and restaurants allegedly in violation, but when his attorneys found out NBC Boston was involved, they shut it down.

There are still several pending ADA lawsuits filed by Marradi and his attorneys.

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