ADA attorney dodges Denver7 amid on-going lawsuit fights

Posted at 7:42 PM, Jul 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-15 00:30:25-04
DENVER -- An attorney who filed more than 60 lawsuits against Denver metro businesses, claiming each violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, continues to not answer questions.
James Robert Carr, who's representing Mellisa Umphenour in the cases, was required to appear in U.S. District Court on Friday related to a case he filed against Original Pizza in Broomfield.
"I don't have any comment," he repeatedly said to Denver7 after the hearing.
Original Pizza's owners, represented by attorney Courtenay Patterson, vowed to fight the lawsuit Umphenour and Carr filed over the winter. They almost immediately asked for $2,750 in a proposed settlement.
"I refuse to pay the money, I will fight for this, and I will see them in court," owner Carmela Aiello said in a previous interview.
She did fight. She brought in Patterson who hired an ADA expert who determined the case was almost entirely moot from the beginning. That, in part, is why the case was in court on Friday.
"Sure, businesses could settle, right? And that suit goes away. And, sure, we could just agree to a dismissal and the case goes away. But the bottom line is, I don't want just the lawsuits to go away -- I want them to stop," Patterson said.
She wanted U.S. Magistrate Judge Craig Shaffer to require Umphenour and Carr to pay her for the time and money she spent battling the case -- a case they tried to walk away from in recent weeks.
Ultimately, the judge did not grant her request citing various case law, but dismissed the case with prejudice.
Shaffer said Patterson and Carr both missed opportunities to resolve the case outside of court.
"I'm hoping that the more people become aware of what's going on and how this really is just a scam and a cottage industry, that's what it's going to take to finally get a stop across the board-- across the whole country," Patterson said.
She hopes to send a message to federal judges in Colorado, especially as Denver7 Investigates proved that the cases have ties to a group in Phoenix called Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities (AID), also known as Litigation Management and Financial Services.
The group filed nearly 2,000 ADA cases in Arizona alone in the last 18 months.
Late last year, AID posted jobs for civil rights advocates and ADA attorneys in Denver, Albuquerque, and Las Vegas.
"The fact that it's the same group who's funding and sort of spearheading and being the puppet master of all of these lawsuits in all of these different states, I'm hoping eventually it's going to get shut down," Patterson said.
For now, federal law allows for ADA lawsuits to be filed without prior notice to a business. Previous attempts to change the law have so far been unsuccessful.
Earlier this week, a federal judge in New Mexico dismissed 99 ADA cases connected to the group in Phoenix and compared the operation to a "carnival shell game," in part.
Patterson anticipates the New Mexico ruling to have an impact on Colorado ADA cases in coming weeks.