One Size Fits All: Not Just A Good Idea; It's The Law.

Food, Law

At least that's Kimberly Block's interpretation.

The Squeeze Inn, known for huge mounds of melted cheese on its burgers, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, [a] lawsuit alleges.

Kimberly Block, who says she has severly [sic] limited use of her legs, argues she suffered "embarrassment and humiliation" and that her civil rights were violated because of inadequate access inside the Fruitridge Road restaurant.

In addition to its cheeseburgers, the Squeeze Inn of Sacramento California is also noted for its cramped spaces and limited seating.  Get it?  "Squeeze in."  The restaurant is famous, having been featured on Food Network and in a number of other media.

The charm is evidently lost on Kimberly Block, who is suing the Squeeze Inn and its owner, Travis Hausauer, for alleged violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, a well-intended law that has produced an unusually high litigation burden for small restaurants and businesses.  But one wonders whether Ms. Block visited the Squeeze Inn last November to order one of its famous cheeseburgers, or to just to get a settlement check, hold the onions.

Why?  Well according to a search on Justia, this isn't the first time Ms. Block has suffered embarrassment and humiliation so severe she felt compelled to sue a restaurant.  It's the third time this year. While Ms. Block hasn't yet filed enough suits to place her in the company of famous serial ADA litigants like Thomas Mundy, her lawyer Jason Singleton, like Mundy's lawyers at Morse Mehrban, has made an industry out of the act. No doubt Block will get there in time.

Of course if Block's suit is litigated rather than settled or defaulted, there's room for a defense attorney to move here.  According to its owner, Squeeze Inn had already altered its patio dining area to accommodate the disabled, making the outdoor area less "squeezy."  Did Block ask for a patio seat?  Did she order to go?

According to Block's suit, she's a longtime resident of Sacramento who routinely travels into the restaurant's neighborhood for business and pleasure.  So the question arises: what did Kimberly Block know about Squeeze Inn, and when did she know it?  Hadn't she heard of the diner famous for its packed seating and cramped aisles before she visited?

Or did she visit the restaurant not for a cheeseburger, but for the express purpose of suing it?

Unfortunately those questions may have to remain between Ms. Block and her consience, rather than a jury.  The owner says he can't afford the renovations Ms. Block demands (renovations which would, not coincidentally, remove much of the Inn's weird appeal), and insurance typically doesn't cover or defend ADA suits, for which defense costs are high.

So while cheeseburger fans and lovers of whatever funky local character remains in Sacramento may be out of luck, their loss will be Jason Singleton's gain.  They'll always have McDonalds.

Update: See comments for more on Jason Singleton, and see this profile of the attorney from 2001.

Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White

24 Comments

23 Comments

  1. mojo  •  Jul 8, 2009 @10:52 am

    Makes you wonder if Singleton's office is wheelchair-accessible, don't it?

  2. mary  •  Jul 8, 2009 @12:14 pm

    I feel sorry for the small business owners in Sacramento. Attorney Jason Singleton cut quite a swath through Humboldt County where I reside–guess he ran out of targets. I'm very in favor of ADA but not how it has been abused by Singleton and his "clients."

  3. Marty  •  Jul 8, 2009 @12:23 pm

    parasites.

  4. Pen  •  Jul 8, 2009 @12:25 pm

    mojo – I tried to Google Earth Singleton's office address listed on Cal State Bar site, it just comes up with an approximate address, a nearby American Title Building and a vacant lot

  5. Noble  •  Jul 9, 2009 @4:36 am

    The Squeeze Inn story (and Jason Singleton) is also being talked about at the Humboldt Herald. If you look at the comments that are starting to pour in, you can see how popular Mr. Singleton is in his native HumCo. This wouldn't be the first business he'd be accused of destroying.

    http://humboldtherald.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/singleton-puts-the-squeeze-on-the-squeeze/

  6. Sean  •  Jul 9, 2009 @12:15 pm

    They should have seen if it could be grandfathered in via the commercial building code.

  7. Patrick  •  Jul 9, 2009 @12:17 pm

    Unfortunately there isn't a grandfather clause under the ADA Sean, and federal law trumps state building codes.

  8. Suzanne  •  Jul 9, 2009 @1:51 pm

    This morning a local Sacramento TV station had an on air forum and at least half a dozen people from the disabled community called in to defend the Squeeze Inn. As another said, "it is time for Ms. Block to get a job and stop living off of the hard work of others!"

  9. Ken  •  Jul 9, 2009 @4:12 pm

    To the best of my knowledge ADA is not Federally Mandated – it's suggested. If this were a civil or building code infraction at any level, she wouldn't have to file in civil court. Ms Block could just point to the infraction and they'd be shut down by the appropriate authorities. Most jurisdictions treat ADA and its beafed up California add-ons (Caldag) as if they were code requirements simply because they're afraid of somebody like Ms Block doing just this type of thing to them. This is little more than legalized extortion and just such charges should be investigated against Ms Block and her attorney.

  10. Patrick  •  Jul 9, 2009 @4:18 pm

    Ken (not to be confused with the author who writes here by that name):

    The ADA absolutely is federally mandated. It is federal law, and will be enforced, most stringently, in a federal court.

    Treating the ADA as a suggestion, in the face of a federal suit, is like treating the tax code as "voluntary." Mind you, making business access available to the disabled is good policy, to some extent, and good business if the cost is reasonable, but the ADA takes the decision out of the realm of policy or business. It's law. Like the tax code, treating it as optional is a bad mistake.

  11. Mimmian  •  Jul 10, 2009 @2:04 am

    Patrick • Jul 9, 2009 @4:18 pm:
    The ADA absolutely is federally mandated. It is federal law, and will be enforced, most stringently, in a federal court. Treating the ADA as a suggestion, in the face of a federal suit, is like treating the tax code as “voluntary.”

    Patrick, while the ADA laws originate at the federal level, this whole "private enforcement" farce is within California's own ADA laws. As such, the potential for solution is at the state level as well. But for a variety of "reasons," the state legislature has failed to fix this mess.
    http://www.legislativedisgrace.com/thelatestsb855.html

    Your analogy to the tax code is faulty. A private citizen can not sue another for failure to file a tax return. Nor does such a failure to file land you automatically in court with a bunch of horse-ca-ca fines shoved up your… nose. No — you get ample opportunity to correct an issue before things get even remotely close to what these ADA crooks are pulling off.

  12. Mimmian  •  Jul 10, 2009 @2:29 am

    A correction to my earlier comment:

    While the basic element of private enforcement comes from the Feds, CA's own Unruh Civil Rights Act. In part, and what makes it so attractive to the lovely attorney/wheelchair teams, is that it will award payouts without "needing to allege the slightest psychic or physical trauma, or even inconvenience."

  13. glo  •  Jul 10, 2009 @9:35 am

    for God's sake why don't you order take out and leave the small businesses alone, its lawyers and people like you who cause mayhem.

  14. sierra nevada Gold  •  Jul 10, 2009 @10:12 am

    I feel like society is afraid to say anything about this because they don't want to say anything hurtful about disabled peoples.
    Anyone can be spiteful, hurtful, money hungry, conniving and manipulative. Regardless if it is on two feet or two wheels.

  15. Trudi Alexander  •  Jul 10, 2009 @2:06 pm

    This just makes me sick. When laws are written with no leeway we the people suffer. To ruin a business at the sake of just to prove a point is perverted. I truly understand the need for handicapped people to have access to vital places but how can one construe that eating a beloved hamburger place is vital to ones exisitance? Kimbery Block and Jason Singleton should be heartily ashamed of themselves. I hope a giant burger gobbles them up.

  16. environmental goddess  •  Jul 10, 2009 @6:32 pm

    Ms. Block needs to travel outside of the United States.
    I have traveled extensively out of the country and NO WHERE are there as many accomodations for people with disabilites as there are in the US.
    Try curbs without ramped areas, try renting an accessible van, try going into a restaurant or renting a hotel room without having to remove the bathroom door so that you gain access. try getting into any bathroom.
    What's next Ms. Block??? Suing a major airline because your wheelchair will not fit down the aisle of the plane? I forgot, airlines are exempt from the ADA.
    The Squeeze Inn is not yor cash cow. You need to look for employment.
    I personally know everyone at the Squeeze Inn and they would have been more than accomodating had you asked. They would ahve taken your order and delivered it to you outside at the table. As far as access to the inside, one must arrive at 10am in order to get a seat. I don't see John and Jane Public suing because they do not have access to the inside of the restaurant.
    I believe that you picked on the WRONG restaurant this time!

  17. tippymama  •  Jul 10, 2009 @8:27 pm

    she is disgusting. Only once we raise our voices against losers like this will anything EVER change.

  18. marie  •  Jul 12, 2009 @6:43 pm

    She probably has never been there in her life, may have seen it on the Foodnetwork and said ahhh Another Sucker. Nothing will become of your "blood money", you may be enjoying it now, but you will reap what you sow, and it will bury you, literally, as John said get a job and leave hard working people the hell alone…why dont you try cooking at home, maybe we should visit your home and counter sue because the toilet it too low or your home is a hazard for us……….

  19. Not Me  •  Jul 17, 2009 @12:30 pm

    The day that scumbag enters my establishment, I'll go out of business. Now, who wins?

    We, as Americans, live under so many laws that we can't possibly read all of them in our lifetime. So many of them conflict that it is impossible to abide by all of them, ever. The point I'm trying to make here is, if you want to find a problem, you can. And, some people make it their business to find problems instead of being positive, productive members of society.

    If Travis has not yet found a new location for his restraunt, maybe he should consider moving out of state. I hear Nevada is nice…

    I would be willing to bet that Kimberly Block has never had a squeeze burger and never will. What has she won here, other than money? To me, this is the real crime.

  20. Kevin  •  Jul 17, 2009 @1:35 pm

    People like this need to be black balled from all restaurants in their city. Black ball ever single one of them and prevent them from ever eating out (Right to refuse Service). A coalition of all the restaurants that don't tolerate leeches like Kimberly Block and her lawyer.

  21. tipper  •  Aug 1, 2009 @9:57 pm

    Kimberly Block is only “disabled” because she is morbidly obese…
    If you are a person that files frivolous lawsuits and attempts to cheat local businesses out of money, especially when they’ve made efforts to help you, then society will fight back…

    Kimberly Block’s address is: [deleted]

    Don't. Fucking. Do. That. Here. EVER. — Ken

  22. John  •  Aug 2, 2009 @5:18 am

    I don't know enough about this case to comment on its merits, so I think that the majority opinion that it is rather frivolous is probably correct. However, I remember having a discussion with a law school buddy of mine regarding the then popular lawsuits suing McDonald's over a client's obesity. While I thought that such cases were an abuse of the system, she pointed out that while the cases may not have merit, they serve to create a policy environment that influences businesses to make decisions more in the public interest. Not sure if anyone's been to a McD's recently, but on a recent visit I noticed that they've started putting nutrition information on the labels as well as offering more low-calorie options. Probably not coincidence.

    Similarly, If I was a current small business owner I would definitely find this lawsuit problematic, costly, and threatening. On the other hand, if I was a small business owner who was about to open a new restaurant, I would probably ensure that it was accessible. Bad lawsuits may make good public policy.

  23. Mimmian  •  Aug 2, 2009 @9:09 pm

    "…if I was a small business owner who was about to open a new restaurant, I would probably ensure that it was accessible. Bad lawsuits may make good public policy."

    Here's the problem with that, John. We've had many clients over the years spend countless thousands with private ADA "certifiers" (no public agency exists to provide such certification) only to find themselves on the business end of one of these P.O.S. lawsuits.

    The requirements are so unbelievably vague that I would venture a guess that it is impossible to attain any meaningful degree of certainty of full compliance. Because as soon as one of those wheelchair nazis (yes, I used the "n" word) rolls in with a tape measure & clipboard, the only certainty is that you will be sued… and lose.

    And with the f'ing ridiculous plaintiff-friendly laws in CA, the business is screwed no matter how much effort they made to "comply." A business could install a $100K wheelchair lift and a full-time staff member to wipe the arses of these people, but If the mirror is hung an inch too high or too low, it is an instant win for the wheelchair nazi and his atty, with damages automatically awarded to the former and fees to the latter.

    The business gets no opportunity to remedy, no chance of defense. So, no — bad lawsuits to not make good public policy… at least not in these cases.

1 Trackback