ACTION NEWS INVESTIGATES: ADA LAWSUITS
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Hundreds of Central Valley businesses have been sued for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
And the disabled men behind many of those lawsuits are filing their own lawsuits, saying they were used and misled by lawyers lining their own pockets.
When Daniel Delgado sat alongside Randy Moore in 2010, the wheelchair workshop owner and the attorney were in the middle of blanketing the Central Valley with legal agony.
Delgado says Moore approached him to be a plaintiff in lawsuits over the Americans with Disabilities Act -- or ADA. The idea was to improve accessibility for disabled people in Central California by enforcing a law on the books since 1990.
"I didn't expect this to be hurting a lot of business," Delgado said. "I thought it was going to improve, to improve to make it right."
Delgado says he expected the San Jose-based Moore Law Firm -- Randy and his wife, Tanya -- to warn businesses about possible violations before filing lawsuits.
But he signed off as the plaintiff on dozens of cases and recruited several of his disabled friends to be plaintiffs for the Moores. And with each new case, a business suffered, paying for its violations.
Nearly all of them paid the Moore's thousands of dollars to avoid expensive trials. A few, like El Gallo in Clovis, say costly settlements forced them to shut down.
And the lawsuits kept coming.
Tanya Moore has filed more than 700 federal lawsuits, mostly related to ADA. But Delgado and John Morales claim they were used.
It can be legitimate practice to send disabled people into businesses they might frequent to test for violations. But Delgado and Morales say the Moores sometimes sent them to businesses they would never have otherwise visited with instructions to buy something and get a receipt.
"She would say, I'd turn in my receipt and she goes 'Okay, don't worry about it," former ADA plaintiff John Morales explained. "I'll go, I'll send somebody and we'll find something."
Delgado says on those few occasions, he got specific instructions to visit the bathroom or other parts of a store. He remembers at least one business where violations he never noticed led to a settlement with the Moore Law Firm.
And when a case settled, Delgado and Morales say they never knew for how much. They claim the Moores sent them a page to sign and nothing else.
But now, the script is flipped.
Delgado and Morales are plaintiffs again in new lawsuits. But this time around, the Moores are the defendants, facing allegations of broken promises.
Tanya Moore told an Action News reporter that the lawsuits stem from a vendetta by Ty Kharazi, one of the attorneys representing Delgado and Morales. She wouldn't specifically address the claims, but said they don't "present a fair or accurate picture of the events or my practice."
And three years ago, around the time the firm represented Delgado and Morales, an Action News reporter spoke to her husband over the phone, and Randy Moore specifically denied sending disabled clients to already-scouted locations.
"We don't have to do that," Moore said. "Can you understand that there are so many places out there we don't have to scout out. Nobody has to be individually picked off or targeted."
Tanya Moore's son, Geoshua Levinson, is a licensed certified access specialist, whose job is to inspect businesses for ADA violations.
Since the interview with Randy Moore, a complaint from Kharazi accused Levinson of inspecting a Fresno business without the owner's authorization to identify it as a target for an ADA lawsuit filed by the Moore Law Firm.
The complaint leading to his suspension accused Levinson of covertly inspecting a Fresno Shell station without the owner's authorization to identify it as a target for an ADA lawsuit filed by the Moore Law Firm on behalf of Ronald Moore.
The Shell station's owner fought the lawsuit, but nearly every business the Moores have sued agreed to a settlement rather than facing an expensive trial.
A deputy state architect agreed it was a violation and suspended Levinson.
He has since been reinstated.
Randy Moore portrayed the work he and his wife were doing as almost heroic, standing up for a community that couldn't stand up without their help -- a community close to his heart.
"These people like my brother, you know, he is disabled," Randy said.
Ronald Moore was the plaintiff in more than 200 cases, including the one against the Shell station. And when we visited his Clovis home, and our cameras were rolling, he struggled to move out of his wheelchair.
But a private investigator got a different look.
To read more, click here: ABC30.com