ATLANTA — Gary DaCosta, the owner of DaBomb Sports Grill in Lithonia, is adamant that anyone with a physical disability can access his business.
“I haven’t had anybody with a wheelchair come in that couldn’t get in,” he said.
That’s why a lawsuit filed against his business has him dumbfounded.
“Everything they said was just not true,” he said.
A man named Marcus Ingram filed the suit. In it, Ingram claims he's a frequent patron at DaBomb Sports Grill. He alleges the business is violating The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) -- listing infractions like inaccessible bathrooms and tables and no routes to the property for someone in a wheelchair.
11Alive Investigates found Ingram reported similar issues with many Georgia businesses. He sued Buttermilk Kitchen in 2019, Fellini’s Pizza in 2016, Big Ketch in Buckhead, Del Ray Taco in Doraville, Waffle House, Subway, Arby's and the list goes on.
Court records showed Ingram filed more than 100 lawsuits alleging ADA violations not just in Georgia but in Florida, Ohio and South Carolina. Most of the lawsuits were with the same attorney: Peter Monismith.
Monismith is based out of Pennsylvania. 11Alive investigator Kristin Crowley called him and asked why the lawsuit filed against DaBomb Sports Grill is being deemed frivolous.
“I think them saying it’s a frivolous lawsuit is a way to say they want it dismissed; they want it to go away and not fix anything,” Monismith said over the phone.
Monismith contends every business he sues is breaking the law. Court records show he’s filed more than 600 ADA-related suits for roughly 25 clients.
11Alive Investigates took this issue to an ADA expert. Kim Gibson, the executive director of a nonprofit called Disability Link, said the first step when handling a business, that is not compliant with ADA guidelines, is to speak with the owner or a manager.
Gibson said The Americans with Disabilities Act is crucial to bringing equity to the disability community.
“Having those lawsuits that aren't justifiable that people are in compliance, that’s hurtful to the cause,” she said.
Monismith said he does not feel his clients’ lawsuits are too much.
“I don’t think it’s excessive,” he said over the phone. “If they go to a property and they can’t gain access to it it’s a legitimate case. If you actually look at our complaint and our expert report, there’s absolutely no access to the property whatsoever because steps there and there’s no way to get into it.”
11Alive asked Monismith if he was aware of a ramp to the restaurant in the back.
“If there is a ramp that is unbeknownst to me,” he responded.
Business owners like DaCosta said those filing the lawsuits have another agenda.
“They’re not doing this for compliance, for access,” he said. “They have access already. They’re doing this as a money grab.”
States like Florida and Arizona cracked down on frivolous ADA lawsuits. We reached out to Georgia’s Attorney General. His office said it “would not have any involvement in the matter.”
In the interim, DaCosta maintained his business’ compliance and said he plans to fight the lawsuit.
He said something like this could put him out of business. He just hopes the cost isn’t too great.