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December 10, 2012
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Sued over bathroom mirror

:icontheredsnifit:
TheRedSnifit Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2012
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Well, folks, it looks like we've got another example of why we need tort reform:

"In the restroom of a family-owned restaurant in Southern California, employees replaced a mirror that had been destroyed by vandals. Since the new mirror was two inches shorter than the old one, it was hanging two inches too high to satisfy disabilities regulations and standards. Once he was notified of the mistake, restaurant owner Ron Piazza immediately lowered the mirror. But it was already too late. Piazza’s restaurant was sued.

'It would have been very easy for them to let us know that the mirror was a couple of inches too high, and we could have taken care of that right away,' Piazza explained."


The most entertaining part of this is that the plaintiffs went in a total of 27 times over the three-month period, never informing the owner of the "damages" caused, and only sued after they moved the mirror down. This is a pretty blatant example of people suing for money, as opposed to being genuinely "injured" by the mirror.

This is, of course, part of the newest trend in California (and elsewhere): greedy serial plaintiffs exploiting disability law to make an easy buck. Some plaintiffs have filed hundreds, or even and thousands of these lawsuits. Never mind the consequences: these lawsuits have resulted in many businesses closing down. Piazza's was lucky: despite the fact that the lawsuit over a mirror two inches too high costs more than the restaurant made last year, the doors will stay open (for now).

So, is it time for us to finally demand tort reform? Or are these plaintiffs justified?
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:icondoctorv23:
DoctorV23 Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2012
That made me laugh. Of course it's abuse and probably needs reform if anyone can actually win such a lawsuit. (I wouldn't have imagined that a mirror being 2 inches too high is such a catastrophe). Lipstick went on crooked? Stand on a stool if you're that short, lol. Jeez there are public toilets in this world that are little more than a hole in the ground.
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:iconzcochrane:
ZCochrane Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2012  Student Photographer
I agree that this law suit was unnecessary. But I'd like to point out that the law it is about is really doing a lot of good for a lot of people.
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:iconenuocale:
EnuoCale Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Someone really needs to lay out that frivolous lawsuits should not be indulged.
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:iconmomoe:
momoe Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2012
I agree on tort reform though naturally, this should be undertaken extremely carefully as when one takes away consumer rights, they can be notoriously hard to get back. (The downhill struggle on digital rights, being a nice example.) It's also worth considering that the great flaw in the legal system is that money talks, and the person or corporation with the most money usually wins. This is why consumers are given as much advantage as the law can provide; to counterbalance the financial gap. Sadly, this means that small businesses that do not enjoy the financial advantages of larger corporations get royally screwed.

Here's just an idea of mine (feel free to skip as it's not really relevant to the discussion):

Off the top of my head, it may be worth taking a page from existing the laws on debt collection. You don't really get to drag people to court due to an unpaid debt automatically and immediately calculate damages due to non-payment. You must have first produced a demand letter, giving the guy who borrowed the money a chance to settle the matter before the courts get involved. Failure to produce a demand letter waives the right of creditor to collect after a prescriptive period has lapsed (the "if you don't want it, then FINE!" doctrine, to coin a phrase). The reason this is done is because litigation should be typically be the last option to remedy a civil matter, not the first. It's expensive and time consuming to the plaintiffs, the defendants and taxpayers. (really, the only consistent winners here are the lawyers).

It's unavoidable to consider damages in the first incident of our bathroom case. After all, the damage was already done when the person was unable to use the mirror the first time. If we were to require a demand letter, written *after* the incident though, then at least the store owner will only have to deal with one incident instead of 27. If a demand letter were not submitted, then any subsequent incident would be assumed to have happened with the implied consent of the plaintiff (ergo, no further damages awarded).

I think a requirement of a demand letter, one that states the relevant law violated and the steps necessary to fix the problem, would be a step in the right direction.

For one, the damages to be paid would be significantly less, discouraging predatory law professionals from taking the case and abusing the law for a healthy percentage of whatever is awarded to their client. The case is then likely to move to a small claims court where it more properly belongs and the plaintiffs and defendants would be on more equal footing (assuming the case is pursued at all).

Demand letters also help to shore up the problem of ignorance on those obscure regulations not everyone is familiar with, since the letters themselves can serve as vehicles that promulgate information before any business-destroying tort is caused.
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:icontheredsnifit:
TheRedSnifit Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2012
Off the top of my head, it may be worth taking a page from existing the laws on debt collection. You don't really get to drag people to court due to an unpaid debt automatically and immediately calculate damages due to non-payment. You must have first produced a demand letter, giving the guy who borrowed the money a chance to settle the matter before the courts get involved. Failure to produce a demand letter waives the right of creditor to collect after a prescriptive period has lapsed (the "if you don't want it, then FINE!" doctrine, to coin a phrase).

I disagree with that; until recently, California was plagued with lawyers sending businesses letters demanding massive settlements; the lawyers frequently never intended to take the case to court, but businesses would pay up anyways. It got so bad that they actually outlawed "demand for money" letters pretty recently.

One problem is that, in California, you can collect damages for minor ADA violations, as opposed to the business simply being fined or being told to fix the problem. The second is that people don't actually alert the businesses to these problems: it's one thing if the business has been told repeatedly that they're violating the law, but they shouldn't be able to sue without a warning.
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:iconmomoe:
momoe Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2012
Ah, you're confusing a demand letter with a threat to sue maybe? Sorry, I was just using the local industry jargon. (I live in the Philippines, so maybe the terminology differs even if the law is the same)

To clarify, a demand letter is designed to merely inform the debtor of his debt and that the creditor is still expecting to be paid. Think of it as a very long winded reminder note.

I suppose the problem in California is that their lawyers like to throw in a litigious threat or two to properly motivate people into paying. I do not agree with that. Sounds like the white collar version of threatening to break someone's legs if they don't pay.


Used properly (read, tastefully), a demand letter exists so that Debtors are protected from going getting sued for ten times what they owed simply because they were forgetful.

As a side note, this law also meant to protect creditors since the prescriptive period in which a debt is considered void resets upon the receipt of a letter of demand by the debtor.
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:iconshadowangel3:
ShadowAngel3 Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Ugh! People will sue for just about anything these days. :roll:
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:iconleapinglela:
LeapingLela Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I had no idea such a law existed regarding mirrors. I knew about bathrooms being disability compliant, but 2 inches for a mirror? How easy could it have been for the plaintiff to simply walk up to the owner and say "Excuse me sir, but I noticed your mirror in your rest room is a tad high for us people with disabilities. Could you lower it?"

Greedy bastards!
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:icontristancody:
TristanCody Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2012  Student Writer
Well. . . guess this shows how much we have fallen as a society, hasn't it?
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:iconkittythenekoalien:
KittyTheNekoAlien Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
These people are just too sue-happy. The McDonalds lady who spilled coffee on herself and sued at LEAST had a case because it turned out the machine was brewing the coffee hotter than it was supposed to, even though there is a warning on the cups that say coffee is HOT. THAT actually causes damage, even if it's user error. Complaining over a mirror is petty. Complaining after it's put in place properly is utter bullshit.
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