The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 25, 2011

Lawsuits against small businesses dropped

By Joseph Deinlein
The Daily Item

— SELINSGROVE — The son of a Texas woman who sued several Valley businesses for noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act had dropped out of Bucknell University about a month before the lawsuit was filed.

Richard K. Greer was a student during the fall semester 2010, which ended Dec. 16, but was not a student in the spring semester that started in January, university spokesman Tom Evelyn confirmed Thursday.

Meanwhile, Greer’s mother, Leslie Greer, filed ADA lawsuits on Jan. 11 against BJ’s Steak & Rib House, Emma’s Food for Life and Bot’s Cafe Inc., all of Selinsgrove; Mom’s Dutch Kitchen, Danville; Fox’s Family restaurant, Pennsdale; Colonial Village Plaza, Shamokin Dam; and Basin Street Shopping Center, Williamsport.

Leslie Greer, who uses a wheelchair, alleged in her lawsuit that she patronized the businesses during a recent visit with her son, a Bucknell student, and believes they are in violation of the ADA.

But when several of those being sued informed Greer they learned her son was no longer a student, the lawsuits were dropped.

“The premise of suit was that she’d be in our establishment, that there was the possibility she could continue to patronize us during her son’s tenure at Bucknell,” said Rick Schuck, owner of Bot’s. “He transferred in December, and we were served in the middle of January.”

Since the suits were filed, questions were raised about Greer and her attorney, Schwartz Zweben & Associates LLP, of Hollywood, Fla.

A story in The Daily Item last Sunday reported Greer had filed almost 40 lawsuits — most, if not all, alleging violations of the ADA since 2007.

Her name is also listed online as the president of a nonprofit agency in Allen, Texas, called No Barriers Inc.

Also, a 2008 report “Overlawyered,” a blog that quoted another report saying lawyers with Schwartz Zweben “have filed more than 200 lawsuits in at least seven states and the District of Columbia on behalf of at least 13 pageant participants, ’including state and national titleholders, state coordinators and pageant judges.’ ”

An attempt to reach Greer was unsuccessful, as the number listed for her organization was out of service. A home number could not be found.

Her attorney, Renee Jamal, with Schwartz Zweben, did not return a call for comment Thursday.

Emma Renninger, of Emma’s, said she and co-owner Nick Charles were happy the lawsuit was dropped because the legal expenses could have cost them their business.

“We’re very thankful,” she said. “It’s been a real stresser in our lives. We’re thankful it’s not going to go on for years and years.”

Just because the lawsuits were dropped does not mean the businesses aren’t upgrading their accommodations. Several business owners interviewed said they were trying to make reasonable accommodations and improvements to their buildings, many of which date back to the early 1900s or earlier.

“It’s not that we’re not compassionate toward those with disabilities,” Charles said.

While the business owners said they likely would talk with their attorneys about pursuing some action against Greer, it’s likely it wouldn’t amount to anything.

Instead, Schuck said they are taking it upon themselves to educate other local small businesses about the ADA.

“We really do feel we have an obligation to alert other small businesses in our community that you are vulnerable to a situation like this,” he said. “If they take on a life of their own, they could be financially crippling to small business.”