San Jose law firm sued over ADA lawsuits

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Michele Bernal co-owns Blossom True Value Hardware in Mountain View-the business has been in the family since the early 70s.

In 2016, she was sued by the Moore Law Firm (since renamed Mission Law Firm).

The firm claimed her store was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The violations included bathroom signage that was posted too high on the bathroom door and a bathroom railing that was also too high. Some store displays were also blocking aisles.

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Bernal fixed the problems and settled out of court at a cost of $20,000.

She said the lawsuit always bothered her... that it felt like "a legal graft."

Blossom True Value was one of at least five businesses in Mountain View that was sued, most also settled. The Moores have reportedly filed 1,400 ADA lawsuits against small businesses across the state.

Attorney Moji Saniefar's family did not. Her parents owned a restaurant in Mountain View and they decided to fight.

They won their case.

Sadly for the family, the victory came a few months after Saniefar's father died. Saniefar, like Bernal, was bothered by the lawsuit.

She hired a private investigator and came to believe the Moores made fraudulent statements during the case-especially in claiming a disabled man had become trapped in the bathroom, twice.

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In an unprecedented move, she has filed a suit against Mission Law Firm under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act-- an act typically reserved for mafia and drug trafficking cases.

It accuses the Moores of mail and wire fraud.

The attorney representing the Moores, John O-Connor, called the lawsuit a "factually frivolous case."

He said Congress wants private enforcement of the disability laws and that's what Mission Law Firm is doing-enforcing the law.

O'Connor said they've achieved a lot of success removing access barriers for the disabled.

In mid-March, a judge rejected the Moores second motion to dismiss the case.

The case will next move into the discovery phase.

Currently, Saniefar's mother is the only plaintiff.

But, she said it's possible this could become a class action lawsuit.

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