A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit against a San Jose law firm notorious for filing thousands of disability lawsuits against small businesses.
As of Oct. 20, all parties notified a federal judge that they had agreed to a settlement deal before the case was scheduled to go to trial. The rush to settle the case came as the defendants, accused of running a criminal enterprise, were being ordered by the court to produce more than 70,000 emails, text messages and other documents relevant to the case.
The defendants include several attorneys, consultants and clients of the now-closed Mission Law Firm, headed by attorney Tanya Moore, which gained a reputation for using the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to shake down small businesses through canned lawsuits. The firm and its spinoffs are believed to be responsible for more than 2,000 accessibility suits across the state, including hundreds of cases targeting small businesses in the Bay Area. Locally, attorneys from the firm have sued Ava's Market, Blossom True Hardware and Taqueria La Espuela in Mountain View, forcing the businesses to pay a quick settlement or risk a lengthy and expensive trial.
Some business owners blamed the lawsuits for forcing them out of business. Restaurants including the Omelette House in Mountain View, Jason's Cafe in Menlo Park and San Jose's Time Deli each shut down after being hit by an ADA suit.
Last year, the Mission Law Firm itself got sued, facing allegations it was no different than a criminal enterprise that could be prosecuted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. That civil case, filed by Burlingame-based attorney Moji Saniefar, alleged the firm used fraud and extortion to coerce small businesses into paying settlements.
For nearly two years, that case has been winding its way through pre-trial motions, including an extensive process to take depositions and disclose the defendants' private correspondence. As the case progressed, U.S. District Judge Lawrence O'Neill excoriated the defendants at the Mission Law Firm for trying to conceal information, destroy evidence and influence witnesses. Just a few days before the settlement was announced, the defendants were being compelled by court order to immediately produce reams of documents under discovery after more than a year of delays.
By agreeing to resolve the case before it headed to trial, all involved parties agreed not to disclose any details of the settlement deal, including any financial payments. Since the case was filed last year, two defendants have filed for bankruptcy.
Reached for comment, Saniefar said she was prohibited from speaking about the case. Moore did not respond to requests for comment prior to the Voice's press deadline Wednesday afternoon.