JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A lawyer for a disabled Jacksonville woman has filed 40 lawsuits in her name within the past six months.
Each lawsuit accuses local small businesses of discriminating against her.
Action News Jax began investigating the claims a month ago. On Tuesday, four more lawsuits were filed.
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Several owners of the businesses being sued for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act tell Action News Jax the lawsuits aren’t about access, but are instead a shakedown of mom and pop shops for money.
On St. Johns Bluff Road, Wanda Moore sued Mama Lu’s Filipino and Chinese Restaurant, Pit Stop 2 next door, and Lucky Food Mart a few doors down all on the same day.
Mama Lu’s is disabled veteran Dan Turner’s favorite place for takeout.
“You can get a beef fried rice for like, $4 or $5. You can’t beat that,” said Turner.
Turner showed up to order a meal recently, only to discover Mama Lu’s was closed for renovations.
“When I found the doors closed, I couldn’t believe it,” said Turner.
Turner found out the restaurant was being sued for failing to comply with the ADA.
A disabled veteran himself, he wanted to know more.
He found the same woman, a double amputee named Moore, had filed more than three dozen lawsuits in the past six months, nearly all against small businesses.
“That’s like a fishing expedition. Somebody’s going around, saying, ‘I’m going to sue this person, this person and this person,’” said Turner.
At 6: "You can't be here." What happened when I showed up to attorney Robert Gibson's office. Small businesses say he's targeting them. pic.twitter.com/qbFN4yNRuM— Jenna Bourne (@jennaANjax) July 25, 2017
The attorney and chiropractor behind all of Moore’s lawsuits is Robert Gibson.
He bills himself as The Law Doc.
The 40 lawsuits allege a range of violations, including out of compliance handicap parking spots, improper ramps, lack of handrails in bathrooms, and countertops being too high.
Gibson repeatedly refused to have a conversation with Action New Jax reporter Jenna Bourne, but he had his paralegal send a statement.
The statement said Gibson sends each business a “pre-suit notice giving them an opportunity to make the corrections to avoid a lawsuit.”
Beach Road Chicken Dinners was one of them.
“Scam, fraud, however you want to word it,” said Beach Road Chicken co-owner Ken Ferger.
Ferger said the purpose of Gibson’s pre-suit notice was to get him to settle.
“It appears that they’ve gone to smaller operations that, oh, they’ll more likely settle,” said Ferger.
Instead, Ferger made changes to his parking lot, ramp and more.
Action News Jax found a few things at the restaurant, like the height of the paper towel dispenser, are still not compliant. The paper towel dispenser in the women’s handicap stall was 6 inches higher than the ADA requires.
A new Florida law took effect this month that can prevent a business that’s the subject of an ADA lawsuit from having to pay up, if they show they’re working on a plan to fix the problems.
In the meantime, Ferger is warning other mom and pop shops.
“I don’t believe that this woman and her attorney are that altruistic, all over town,” said Ferger.
The lawsuits claim Moore went to several of the businesses she’s suing all on the same day.
Action News Jax went to Moore’s home on Tuesday to try to get her side of the story, but no one came to the door.
Businesses Moore and Gibson are currently suing:
- Bono's Pit Bar B Q
- Captain D's
- Sunrise Caribbean Gourmet, Inc.
- Harry's Food Mart
- Exxon Food Mart
- Another Broken Egg Café
- Amy's Turn
- Sheik The Restaurant
- Beach Road Chicken Dinners
- Hook Fish & Chicken (Atlantic Blvd)
- Sam Won Garden Restaurant
- Hook Fish And Chicken (Ramona Blvd)
- Famous Sandwiches
- Ramona Food Store
- Mr. Dragon Chinese Restaurant
- New China Restaurant
- Pit Stop 2
- Mama Lu's Filipino & Chinese Restaurant
- Tony's Super Dollar Store
- Lucky Food Mart
- Quick and Handy 121
- Latin Creations
- Northside Food Store
- Russ-Doe’s Sandwich Shop
- Gibbs NY Style Subs
- Joelle Food Store
- Country Cabin Orange Park
- Moncrief Express
- Wally's Gyros & Subs
- H & H Discount Beverage, Inc.
- Nicole's On The River
- Ho Ho Chinese Restaurant
- Sandwich House
- Talleyrand Food Mart
- Raceway #931
- Beignet’s Caribbean Café
- Parental Food Mart
- Snappy Food Store
- First Coast Deli & Grill
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