Phoenix, Arizona - Tuesday, the Attorney General’s Office filed a motion to intervene in a federal court case in an attempt to stop a serial litigator from filing frivolous lawsuits against Arizona businesses in federal court.
In the filing, the State is seeking a court order declaring Plaintiffs’ counsel, Peter Strojnik, a vexatious litigant for repeatedly abusing Arizona courts with baseless lawsuits. The designation would mean Strojnik could not file any additional disability law compliance lawsuits in federal court without first getting permission from a judge.
Today’s action marks the State’s first attempt to seek any sanctions in federal court in these cases. Last year, the Attorney General’s Office (“AGO”) intervened in over 1,100 “copy-and-paste” disability access lawsuits filed by the same group in state court. The AGO ultimately prevailed in dismissing all of them and successfully barred AID from filing subsequent claims in state court.
Although the AGO successfully obtained dismissal of all of the state court claims, a few of the “copy-and-paste” lawsuits were removed to federal court, including the one in which the AGO is seeking to intervene. That suit was filed in state court on May 17, 2016, and was removed to federal court shortly thereafter (docket no. 16-1969).
The complaint alleged violations of both the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Arizonans with Disabilities Act (“AzDA”) regarding parking signage and spot size. Strojnik demanded $5,000 in attorneys’ fees even though the defendant company “immediately corrected” the alleged issues with its parking. The federal court later concluded that “no fee is the reasonable fee for an unnecessary lawsuit that a demand letter would have taken care of.” It further explained that “in a simple form complaint case like this, it is impossible that the fee for preparing and filing the complaint could be $5,000.”
The federal court dismissed Plaintiffs’ case in September. As part of its order dismissing the case, the court explained that Strojnik’s “extortionate practice had become pervasive,” and that he had engaged in “ethically suspect tactics” and “unethical extortion of unreasonable attorney’s fees.”
To date, Strojnik has filed nearly 60 new disability access lawsuits in federal court with a new nominal plaintiff, Fernando Gastelum.
The Attorney General’s Office expects to file vexatious litigant-related filings upon the Court granting this motion to intervene.
The State takes no position at this time as to whether an ADA or AzDA violation exists in any particular case.