The New York Post has reported that a Queens man the paper said could walk without a wheelchair after he had sued Big Apple businesses for millions over their supposed lack of handicapped access “is facing fraud allegations by the companies and has already agreed to drop two cases.”
Arik Matatov’s attorney has reportedly dropped a pair of $5-million lawsuits against luxury Soho retailers Christian Dior and Herno, with another half-dozen businesses said to be asking judges to toss their suits, citing The Post’s expose.
“Documentary evidence shows that the plaintiff is not wheelchair bound as he claims but is able to ambulate on his own and has submitted false and misleading statements about his alleged disability for monetary gain,” Pino’s lawyer, Ryan Brownyard, wrote in court papers, according to the Post. “See Exhibit ‘B’ herein and news articles from The New York Post concerning the plaintiff,” Brownyard added. “Pomodoro Ristorante & Pizzeria on Spring Street is seeking the same punitive fine against the pair.”
An attorney representing another business, the shirt company UNTUCKit on Prince Street, said Neiman insisted that his client had an unspecified “legal disability” but that he “can walk short distances,” the Post reported. “That admission “renders patently false the allegations in the complaint that plaintiff’s disability ‘requires him to use a wheelchair,’ and that he ‘was unable to enter’ UNTUCKit’s store up a single step,” says company lawyer Jared Kagan in court papers.”
Tom Stebbins, director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, “called Matatov’s lawsuits a “waste of already scare court resources” and urged government officials to “work to protect businesses from serial plaintiffs and their attorneys who are more interested in dollars than access,” said the article.
In a rare show of collegiality, the New York Times has lauded its rival newspaper for its reporting on this case. “It is one of the distinct pleasures of urban life to be able to wake up on an otherwise fine summer morning, make yourself a cup of coffee, then choke on it at the sight of the front page of your local tabloid. But the cover of The New York Post on Thursday — the 28th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act — was more shocking than usual. It promoted a damaging misperception about people with disabilities, on a day better suited to celebrating their progress in one of the most neglected areas of American civil rights.
“The print edition’s headline, “WALK OF SHAME,” followed by the clarifying “‘Handicapped’ man suing NYC businesses spotted not using wheelchair,” told the story,” the Times piece continued. “A photo of a surprised-looking man — Arik Matatov of Queens, N.Y., standing in the doorway of his home — covered the page.
“Mr. Matatov, The Post reported, had been threatening New York City businesses with lawsuits for not complying with A.D.A. accessibility requirements, demanding through a lawyer that they pay him $50,000 and pledge to build an access ramp, or else face a multimillion-dollar suit under the law,” the Times story continued. “He reportedly visited these businesses in a wheelchair, claiming he was personally prevented from accessing them. The new photos of Mr. Matatov standing were evidence, readers were to believe, that he wasn’t really disabled.”
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