12:13, October 29 292 0 abajournal.com

2019-10-29 12:13:05
Law firms settle suit accusing them of civil RICO conspiracy to collect ADA settlements

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Two California law firms have resolved a lawsuit accusing them of engaging in a civil RICO conspiracy by filing multiple lawsuits against small businesses for alleged violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Moore Law Firm and its successor, the Mission Law Firm, notified the court in a joint Oct. 22 stipulation with the plaintiff that the claims have been resolved, Law360 reports. Lawyer and paralegal defendants associated with the law firms joined in the notice.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The plaintiff, former restaurant owner Fatemah Saniefar, claimed in a January 2018 amended complaint that the defendants engaged in a civil conspiracy to collect quick ADA settlements by filing about 1,400 cases in the Eastern District of California. The businesses sued for ADA violations would settle because it was cheaper than litigating, Saniefar alleged.

The suit alleged a family-run ADA lawsuit conspiracy involving Kenneth Randolph “Randy” Moore, a partner at the Moore Law Firm, along with his wife, his brother, his stepson and his nephew.

The brother, Ronald Moore, visited establishments later accused in the ADA lawsuits, including the Saniefar family’s now former restaurant, Zlfred’s Restaurant in Fresno, California, the suit said. More than 250 of the firm’s cases were filed on behalf of Ronald Moore, Saniefar alleged.

Ronald Moore contended that he got stuck in the bathroom at Zlfred’s Restaurant and had to holler so loudly for help that his grandson sitting in the dining room heard him and went to his rescue. Witnesses for Saniefar said the incident didn’t happen.

Saniefar alleged that Ronald Moore has claimed that he cannot stand and walk without assistance but taped surveillance showed that assertion to be untrue. The surveillance shows him “walking, kicking, hopping and bending” without any need for support or showing any signs of hesitance, the suit alleged.

In their answer to the amended complaint, the defendants said a federal court had found Moore to be disabled in another case, and the finding was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco, which reviewed the same surveillance video referenced by Saniefar.

U.S. Chief District Judge Lawrence O’Neill refused to dismiss the amended complaint in a March 2018 decision. O’Neill said Saniefar’s allegations about Ronald Moore being disabled were not foreclosed by the 9th Circuit decision.

The parties notified the court of settlement after U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara McAuliffe refused to extend a deadline to produce text messages involving a paralegal who Saniefar had requested a year earlier. The delay “smacks of gamesmanship,” McAuliffe wrote.

McAuliffe ruled that the defendants had waived certain privileges and protections by failing to produce the documents by the deadline.

Her ruling followed another adverse ruling for the defendants by O’Neill in June. O’Neill granted a motion for sanctions based on allegations that Randy Moore and another defendant tampered with testimony by a witness. O’Neill struck all lawsuit responses by Moore and the second defendant, allowing Saniefar to obtain a default judgment against them, according to Law360.