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Strojnik v. Kapalua Land Co. Ltd.

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

May 8, 2019

PETER STROJNIK, Plaintiff,
v.
(1) KAPALUA LAND COMPANY LTD dba THE KAPALUA VILLAS MAUI (Defendant 1); (2) RICHARD RAND and MARR JONES WANG, a Limited Liability Partnership (Defendant 2), Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS RICHARD RAND AND MARR JONES & WANG LLP'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          Susan Oki Mollway United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION.

         Defendants Marr Jones & Wang LLP, a law firm, and Richard Rand, a partner at Marr Jones & Wang LLP (together, “Law Defendants”), have filed a motion to dismiss pro se Plaintiff Peter Strojnik's claim against them. ECF No. 11. Strojnik, an attorney who has been suspended from practicing law in Arizona, alleges that Law Defendants threatened him by suggesting that they would contact the Arizona State Bar regarding Strojnik's communications with Law Defendants and Law Defendants' client. Based on this alleged threat, Strojnik asserts a claim of interference, coercion, and intimidation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (“ADA”). Law Defendants argue that this claim is frivolous and should be dismissed. The court addresses Law Defendants' motion without a hearing pursuant to Local Rule 7.2(d), concluding that Strojnik fails to allege facts going to a cognizable injury caused by Law Defendants.

         II. BACKGROUND.

         According to a press release issued by the State Bar of Arizona on July 13, 2018, [1] “[t]he Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the Arizona Supreme Court issued an order placing Peter Strojnik of Phoenix on interim suspension while the State Bar of Arizona conducts its investigation into numerous complaints filed mostly by Arizona small business owners.” Attorney Peter Strojnik Placed on Interim Suspension for Milking ADA Violations, State Bar of Arizona (July 13, 2018), https://www.azbar.org/newsevents/newsreleases/2018/07/interimsus pension-peterstrojnik/ (last visited May 3, 2019). The press release states:

Strojnik filed more than 1, 700 complaints in a State Court and more than 160 complaints in a District Court alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Arizonans with Disabilities Act (AzDA). In most cases, he would demand $5, 000 in attorney's fees, regardless if the business remedied the violation. The cases filed were all very similar, alleging vague and non-specific violations. He collected approximately $1.2 million in settlements, which mainly consisted of attorney's fees.

Id.

         On February 13, 2019, Strojnik, proceeding pro se, filed a Complaint[2] against Kapalua Land Company (“KLC”) and Law Defendants. ECF No. 1. The Complaint alleges that Strojnik is disabled and an “ADA Tester, ” and that KLC's hotel located on Maui does not comply with accessibility requirements under the ADA or Hawaii law. See id., PageID #s 2-3. The body of the Complaint does not state the hotel's name, but the Complaint's caption references the Kapalua Villas Maui. See Id. at 1.

         According to the Complaint, Strojnik has never visited the Kapalua Villas Maui, but rather “is deterred from visiting the Hotel based on Plaintiff's knowledge that the Hotel is not ADA or State Law compliant.” See Id. at 3. This “knowledge” appears based on information that Strojnik obtained from hotel booking websites. See Id. at 18-23 (“Addendum A” showing screenshots from www.hotels.com and www.outrigger.com).

         The Complaint asserts several claims against KLC based on alleged accessibility issues at Kapalua Villas Maui. These claims include (1) denial of equal access to public accommodations on the basis of disability in violation of the ADA and chapter 489 of Hawaii Revised Statutes, (2) unfair and deceptive acts or practices in violation of chapter 480 of Hawaii Revised Statutes, (3) nondisclosure, and (4) negligence. Id. at 3-13.

         The Complaint also asserts an ADA claim of interference, coercion, and intimidation against KLC and Law Defendants. See Id. at 13-14. The claim arises out of letters between Law Defendants, as lawyers for KLC, and Strojnik. The correspondence is attached to the Complaint and is summarized as follows:

• In a letter dated January 21, 2019, and with the subject line “Courtesy Notice of Potential Litigation, ” Strojnik wrote to Bill Rees at KLC attaching a copy of a draft complaint naming KLC as a defendant[3] and stating that “[your] hotel's non-compliance with the ADA and HRS Chapter 489 deter me from booking a room there[.]” Id. at 24. The letter states, “I strongly suggest that you consult with an attorney learned in ADA matters. This is a complex matter involving significant potential damages, attorney's fees, costs and expenses.” Id.
• In a letter dated February 5, 2019, Rand wrote to Strojnik on behalf of Rees and another client who appears to have received a similar letter and draft complaint from Strojnik. See Id. at 25. Rand's letter states, “We understand that you are not licensed to practice law in either Arizona or Hawaii and were suspended effective July 11, 2018 by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the Arizona Supreme Court while it continued to investigate your mass filing of ADA lawsuits without any factual support. Your draft complaints sent to the two properties strongly suggests that your conduct is continuing.” Id. The letter goes on to respond to the claims in Strojnik's draft complaint, explaining that Kapalua Villas Maui consists of individually owned condominium units not subject to the same ADA accessibility requirements as hotels. See id.
• Strojnik responded to Rand in a letter dated February 5, 2019, with additional legal arguments in support of his claims. See Id. at 27-31. Strojnik's letter states, “Although we are not averse to litigation, we believe that providing appropriate courtesy notice, as we have done, leads to a better, private resolution.” Id. at 31. Strojnik then offers a settlement proposal, including “[c]osts, expenses and damages in the amount of $13, 500 as to each location.”[4] ECF No. 11-5, PageID # 154. The letter states that after eight days, “I will file suit and we can test our theories in court.” Id.
• In a letter dated February 8, 2019, Rand states, “Your letter confirms what we suspected was your ultimate motive: to obtain a quick monetary payment. We reject your offer. You need not communicate with us again. We believe the State Bar of Arizona will be interested to learn of your attempt to continue in other states the same activity that you were suspended for in Arizona.” ECF No. 1, PageID # 32.

         Strojnik alleges that the February 8 letter[5] “interfered, coerced and intimidated Plaintiff by threatening to file charges against Plaintiff with the Arizona State Bar for Plaintiff's exercise of his rights under the ADA.” Id. at 13. The Complaint seeks “all relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 12117, 12133, and 12188.”[6] Id. at 15.

         On March 15, 2019, Law Defendants filed the present motion to dismiss. ECF No. 11. On April 26, 2019, Strojnik and KLC filed a stipulation to dismiss with prejudice all claims against KLC. ECF No. 22. Strojnik then filed a First Amended Complaint on April 29, 2019, that is largely identical to the original Complaint, but names Outrigger Hotels and Resorts as a defendant in place of KLC. See ECF No. 25. On May 6, 2019, Strojnik filed a notice of withdrawal of the First Amended Complaint and a motion for leave to file a First Amended Complaint. ECF No. 31. That motion is pending before the court.[7]

         III. MOTION TO ...


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