That's Miami attorney Matt Weinstein, describing the ADA practice of Sam Aurilio:
Hmm, I'm of two minds here. Obviously you cannot bring a suit like this on behalf of someone who is not truly disabled, and the parties should always try to negotiate first, but what is so wrong about someone suing to bring buildings into compliance with the law?
"He's a maverick," says attorney Samuel Aurilio, who has been Fox's all-important sidekick in his crusade to get businesses to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Others who have sparred with Fox use far less generous terms to describe him.
"He's what we like to call a professional plaintiff," says attorney Joe Fields, who has represented many of the business owners and views Fox's activities as more of a shakedown than a humanitarian campaign.
After six years and 139 lawsuits, Fox isn't surprised - or dismayed - by such assertions.
"I have no problem being accused of being a professional whatever," says Fox, whose childhood polio returned to put him in a wheelchair about 10 years ago. "I do this because I don't want the disabled people who come after me to go through what I've had to go through."
The former Riviera Beach city councilman is far from alone. But while most of the thousands of other Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuits filed in federal court in the Southern District of Florida are on behalf of people associated with disabled advocacy groups, Fox flies solo.
"I don't like bureaucracy," he says with a shrug.
When he visits a car dealership, restaurant, gas station or shopping center that doesn't have enough handicapped parking spaces or grab bars in the bathrooms, where counters are too high, doors are too narrow or other obstacles to the disabled are found, he gives Aurilio a call.
An expert is called to verify his claims. In most cases a lawsuit is filed. Eight, with nearly identical claims, were filed on one day last month alone.
Such tactics have been controversial since shortly after President George H.W. Bush signed the landmark legislation on July 26, 1990.
Overnight, critics complained, a cottage industry was created for so-called drive-by lawsuits filed by disabled people who linked up with unscrupulous lawyers who knew they could cash in on the law, which requires the losing side to pay their attorney fees.
For people like Fox, filing the lawsuits poses little risk. Aurilio takes the cases on a contingency basis. If he loses, which is rare, Fox doesn't have to pay. If he wins, the business pays Aurilio's fees.
Lawsuits rarely go to trial. In pretrial settlements, business owners agree to renovate their stores and pay Aurilio's fees.
"It's a racket," says Miami attorney Mathew Weinstein, who has represented business owners in lawsuits filed by the Fox-Aurilio team.
Aurilio, who has filed 274 ADA cases in Florida, including Fox's, laments that a few attorneys have given all of those who fight for the disabled a bad name. The poster child is a North Miami attorney who in 2003 was sanctioned by U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks for filing 13 lawsuits on behalf of a man he claimed was a quadriplegic who later walked in to give his deposition in one of the cases.
Not only was the man not disabled, he "did not know what a quadriplegic was, and when the term was explained to him, he was repulsed by the thought of being so incapacitated," Middlebrooks wrote in a blistering 18-page order sanctioning attorney Lawrence Fuller.
He ordered Fuller to pay Speedway Superamerica the $43,323 it had spent defending two gas stations in Port St. Lucie and one in Palm Beach Gardens against his claims. He was also ordered to pay for a special master to spend a year in his office evaluating his practice. Fuller was admonished by The Florida Bar.
Middlebrooks noted that filing ADA cases had been lucrative for Fuller. After reviewing settlement agreements in 95 of the 600 cases Fuller filed, Middlebrooks said the attorney pocketed about $5,100 per case. Multiplied by 600, that came to more than $3 million in less than five years.
Anyways, let's see what ole' Larry Fuller is up to. Oh, here he is -- still practicing in North Miami, still doing ADA cases. His website is here.