Fifth wave of ADA lawsuits hits Denver metro with new plaintiff, new attorney

Posted at 8:35 PM, Apr 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-14 22:35:03-04

DENVER -- Brace yourselves because your favorite store or restaurant could be in someone's cross hairs. Another round of lawsuits is hitting Colorado claiming that businesses are discriminating against people with disabilities.

This time, many of the cases target businesses in the southern half of the Denver metro. Each, filed by a woman named Vicki Mize, claims a business violated technical guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Altogether, five separate plaintiffs have filed roughly 150 ADA cases in Colorado over the last 12 months or so.

The lawsuits are not illegal, but business owners and attorneys have continually questioned the ethics of the people filing the cases.

The last round of ADA litigation, filed by Mellisa Umphenour, targeted more than 60 businesses.

Umphenour abruptly resigned from her post with the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council, according to the Denver Post this week. She cited "personal family concerns."

Among the defendants in Umphenour's cases are Ralph and Carmela Aiello, who own Original Pizza in Broomfield.

"I refuse to pay the money," Carmela Aiello said in a previous interview about the $2,750 settlement she was offered to pay to dismiss the case. "I will fight for this and I will see them in court."

They are still in court. The Aiellos have successfully proven that the allegations against them were either frivolous or remedied thus making their case moot. They and their attorney, Courtenay Patterson, are still demanding that Umphenour pay the costs they've incurred to fight the case.

"I want to stand up for what's right and I think this is wrong and -- somebody's got to stop this because they'll keep doing it to everybody else."

In the last week, Vicki Mize and her attorney, Lori Coulter, filed the bulk of their cases -- 15 cases in all.

Hickory House Ribs in Parker is among the businesses affected. Among the alleged ADA infractions at the restaurant are a restroom soap dispenser and toilet flusher that are not in the proper places. Also, the case says the restaurant has accessible parking signage that's not complete and of the wrong height.

Denver7 spoke with one of the Hickory House owners on Friday who said they still had not been officially served with the case. Regardless, the owner said they do not have any plans to quickly settle it. The owner said restaurant management had already been engaged with improving accessibility at the restaurant before the case was filed.

Denver7 also attempted to contact Coulter via email and phone. So far, she has not responded to requests for comment.

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