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US Judge Sanctions Miami ADA Lawyer, Client Over ’Completely Selfish’ Frivolous Lawsuits

August 29, 2019
Source: Daily Business Review powered by Law.com

[Note: The news source website has restricted access and may require registration.]

U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck has sanctioned Miami [Florida] attorney Scott Dinin for filing frivolous lawsuits on behalf of his client, Alexander Johnson, a Broward County man who suffers from hearing loss and has sued more than 100 companies under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act [(ADA)].

The law was enacted more than two decades ago to bar discrimination against disabled persons, but Huck found the pair harbored ”completely selfish” motives.

Huck wrote that lawsuits filed by Dinin for Johnson served “to dishonestly line their pockets with attorney’s fees from hapless defendants under the sanctimonious guise of serving the interests of the disabled community.”

Dinin has undermined the credibility of legitimate ADA cases by improperly sharing attorney fees with Johnson, “egregiously inflated” his billable time and exaggerated his legal experience, according to Huck’s order, which said they have accepted blame. But Huck wasn’t convinced.

“In an obvious attempt to minimize potential sanctions, Johnson and Dinin proposed that their transgressions, while serious, were merely the result of Dinin’s inexperience, lack of legal sophistication, incompetence, and of Johnson’s reliance on the advice of his attorney, rather than intentional malfeasance,” Huck wrote.

The order blocks Dinin and Johnson from filing cases in any state or federal court in the country without written permission from the Southern District of Florida. Dinin will have to file this order in each case he’s filed in the Southern District of Florida in the last 24 months, and he’s been referred for investigation by the Florida Bar and the court’s Ad Hoc Committee on Attorney Admissions, Peer Review and Attorney Grievance.

’I apologize to those I have disappointed’

Dinin said he respects the ruling and the opportunity it provides for him to “address professionalism and then return to serving the justice needs of people with disabilities.”

In an emailed statement, Dinin said, “My intention has been to address a very critical need of nearly one million deaf people of the state of Florida who demand to be treated with respect, accommodation and equality just like the rest of us. I have made serious mistakes which I acknowledge and for which I accept responsibility. I have changed my behavior. I apologize to those I have disappointed.

“I hope that my inadequacies do not get in the way of the message that people with disabilities have rights which must be enforced. Their independence and self-expression deserve to be supported and promoted. These cases were about ensuring deaf and hard of hearing people were not left behind in the rush for business to employ technologies that only part of the population [can] use.”

Dinin billed $400 an hour for more than six hours of drafting, reviewing and filing documents that Huck said were identical to what he’d filed in other ADA cases. According to the order, the court unearthed documents and checks that show Dinin usually splits his fees 50/50 with Johnson.

Huck’s findings stemmed from lawsuits Dinin brought against Miami gas stations owned by Ocaris Group Management Inc. and 27th Avenue Caraf Inc. over their failure to include closed captioning on the TV screens next to gas pumps.

Huck dismissed the cases with prejudice, as Dinin filed the lawsuit before exhausting all other options. They were two out of 26 identical cases against gas stations in Miami and Broward, according to the court order.

Huck said the sanctions aren’t related to the dozens of similar ADA cases Johnson and Dinin have filed, but noted “it is not an illogical leap to conclude that these same abuses occurred in some or all of those cases.”

The order also cited a Daily Business Review article, which raised questions about potential abuses in ADA litigation.

One of Dinin’s cases became a landmark win against Winn Dixie Stores Inc., which paved the way for countless website accessibility lawsuits. But Huck found that transcripts revealed he “did not utter a single word during the two-day bench trial.”

The court ordered Dinin and Johnson to give back fees and costs from both gas pump cases and pay a $59,000 penalty, either to the clerk of the court or the Disability Independence Group, a Miami nonprofit aimed at protecting the rights of disabled people.

More information: Court case citations

Case 1:18-cv-24586-PCH Document 86 Entered on FLSD Docket 08/23/2019 (21 pages)
United States District Court
Southern District of Florida
Case No. 18-CV-24586-PCH
Case No. 18-CV-24472-JEM
Alexander Johnson v. Ocaris Management Group d/b/a U-GAS East Flagler
Alexander Johnson v. 27th Ave. CARAF Inc. d/b/a Caraf Oil

Link: Go to website for News Source
https://www.law.com/dailybusinessreview/2019/08/27/us-judge-sanctions-miami-ada-lawyer-client-over-completely-selfish-frivolous-lawsuits/


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