Family business speaks out after two ADA lawsuits

May 16, 2019

By Allison Levitsky,
Daily Post Staff Writer.

A second Palo Alto motel in two months has been hit with a lawsuit by Scott Johnson, a quadriplegic attorney who has sued hundreds of California businesses over disability access violations.

In his lawsuits, Johnson cites state civil rights law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA.

Johnson filed the suit against the Country Inn Motel in April, claiming that a lemon tree illegally encroached into the motel’s parking access aisle for wheelchair-accessible vans, the motel’s handicap parking signs didn’t include the phrase “Minimum Fine $250” and its wheelchair-accessible rooms had a pullout couch rather than a second bed.

Linda Maher, 63, of Los Altos, has run the motel for 30 years with her siblings, Jim Gretz, Laurie Tinker and Julie Macey.

Their grandparents built the motel in 1953 at 4345 El Camino Real and their mother, Rena Gretz and uncle Jim Cesano, own it. Maher said her family had already made access improvements after being hit with a similar lawsuit in 2005 by litigant Andi Millard, who Maher said “drove around and took a peek” to check for violations.

“We hung a new sign, we put in a ramp, but his damages were just absolutely ridiculous, what he was looking for,” Maher said.

In the latest suit against the Country Inn, Johnson alleged that the motel website illegally requires those who need a wheelchair-accessible room to call to make a reservation rather than being able to reserve a room online.

In addition, he claimed that the pull-out ledge for wheelchair users to sign paperwork is noncompliant because it requires the user to reach his or her arms up to the counter to grab paperwork.

To remedy that would require a total remodel of the motel’s office because the Cesanos can’t cut into the granite counter, Maher said.
Attempts to reach Johnson for comment were unsuccessful.

Suit costs family thousands