About 20 Manteca businesses are the latest to face disabled access lawsuits from Carmichael attorney Scott Johnson.
Johnson, who is a quadriplegic, has made similar claims against dozens of small business owners across the state, including in Sacramento and Stockton.
“I think he’s an extortionist, that’s what I think,” The Hair Company owner Janice Ward said. Ward’s salon is one of the businesses facing an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit.
“He wants us to change the bathroom,” Ward said. “Well, how do you make a bathroom bigger when there’s no other room?”
Ward has owned The Hair Company in downtown Manteca for more than 40 years and says her ADA accessibility has never been a problem before.
“We have a lady who comes every two weeks, she’s in a wheel chair,” Ward told FOX40. “We’ve never had one complaint ever.”
And Ward is not alone.
Down the street, Sami Guedoir runs Century Furniture, another store Johnson has filed a lawsuit against.
“It’s legal extortion at its best,” Gudoir said. “I think he’s banking on us not having enough to do what he’s asking us to do.”
Across the street, Manteca Bedquarters is also being sued, even though owner Steve Lewis doesn’t believe Johnson ever came into the store.
“I never saw him in here. He says he was here twice. He said he made two purchases here. We have no record of that, either,” Lewis said.
In fact, defense attorneys contacted Lewis before he was even served.
“The attorneys beat him here wanting to represent us,” he said. “We did hire an attorney. We had a (Certified Access Specialist) inspection done, and we’re going to try and do whatever we have to do, but of course it’s a scam.”
But Ward and Guedoir can’t afford the $3,000 to hire their own attorney.
They’ve instead started a petition against frivolous lawsuits.
“Helping people with special needs should not be a reason to disable a lot of businesses,” Guedoir said.
While these owners are now doing what they can to be ADA-compliant, they don’t believe that’s why Johnson filed his suits.
“He’s lining his pocket with the money,” Ward said. “He’s not giving it to an organization to help handicap people.”
FOX40 reached out to Johnson and attorneys representing him, but there was no response.
The City of Manteca is holding a town hall meeting to let businesses know how to become ADA complaint Wednesday at 10 a.m.