A Maricopa County Superior Court judge has dismissed more than 1,000 lawsuits filed by the controversial group Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities.
The unexpected decision was delivered by Judge David Talamante from the bench at a hearing on Friday.
It caps a months-long legal battle between Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities (AID) and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, which intervened in all of AID’s open cases because of an ABC15 investigation.
“Arizona is not going to tolerate serial litigators who try to shake down small hardworking businesses by exploiting the disability community,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich in a prepared statement. “Today’s ruling is a victory for the rule of law.”
AID’s lead attorney, Peter Strojnik, declined to answer several questions after the hearing. He called a reporter “a liar” and said he doesn’t talk to “fake news outlets.”
ABC15 has been investigating AID for months.
Last year, the station exposed AID had sued 1,700 businesses and initially demanded between $5000 to $7500 to settle. Most lawsuits alleged issues with businesses’ parking lot signs.
In almost all of the cases, ABC15 discovered a person with disabilities never actually visited the business.
It was an issue hammered by AG attorney Matthew Du Mee, who argued there can’t be an injury if no one ever visited the place that was sued.
It’s also the main reason Judge Talamante ruled against AID.
“None of the cases allege that distinct and palpable injury,” he said.
The Attorney General’s Office said it now plans to file for sanctions against AID. If granted, AID could have to pay back the state and sued businesses for their legal expenses.
It’s not clear if AID plans to appeal the decision.
Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at firstname.lastname@example.org.