Jamaica Plain man who sued scores of businesses over handicap accessibility has died

Raoul Marradi of Jamaica Plain, who had cerebral palsy and used a wheelchair, has died at 59, after several years of suing scores of restaurants, bars and landlords in the Boston area to require them to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

News of his death comes in filings by his attorneys on Nov. 5 in the federal cases that were still open, such as one of his most recent suits, filed less than a month before he died, against Fiore's Bakery and its landlord on South Street in Jamaica Plain:

Plaintiff’s counsel hereby provides notice that, upon information and belief, Plaintiff Raoul
Marradi has passed away.

In the filings, attorneys Edward Garno of Lowell and Todd Shulby of Weston, FL. asked for 90 days to see if anybody would take over the outstanding suits before they are dismissed. Federal records showed some 180 suits by Marradi in recent years.

In 2015, the city of Quincy agreed to install ramps and make other changes along two major streets and at two city fields to make them accessible to people in wheelchairs after Marradi sued.

NECN interviewed Marradi last year about his suits.

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Comments

Nice. How about calling them hunchbacks too?

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You are probably young and able-bodied, also wondering why everyone doesn't bicycle everywhere like you.

I have some shattering news: you too will get old if you don't become roadkill first. You may only get crippled in a crash and learn firsthand of mobility challenges. We are all only temporarily abled. You too will have difficulty getting around some day.

Blue bikes needs to be sued. They got public tax money and don't accommodate handicapped people at all. They should be forced to have some electric motor powered bikes, and that would benefit able-bodied people too, just as wider doors, ramps, and removed hazards helps everyone, including parents with strollers.

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Why does it take a private

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Why does it take a private citizen to get Civil Rights enforcement? Why isn't the city doing this as part of the state requirement to reinspect commercial properties every 5 years?

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ADA and MAAB

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Both have requirements for triggering updates to existing buildings.

Massachusetts 521 CMR Jurisdiction is found here: https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2018/10/17/521003.pdf

ADA Title III (Commercial Buildings) here: https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/titleIII_2010/titleIII_2010_regulations.htm...

tl;dr New construction must meet design requirements. Alterations don't trigger the requirements unless they meet a certain dollar value related to the full and fair cash value of the building. And the calculation is over 36 months if multiple building permits are pulled.

SO, unless you change the code, it's not part of the inspection you name.

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Altered elements ARE TO

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Altered elements ARE TO COMPLIANT. The cash value thing is to make the entire space compliant. If you replace (not repair) something it has to be compliant For example replacing a storefront, the storefront must be compliant (door width, clear approach area), but you wouldn't have to add a compliant bathroom, or a ramp to the door. Cheap landlords make this intentional 'mistake' all the time and deserve to be sued into the ground.

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re: Altered elements ARE TO

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So first, read the jurisdiction section of 521 CMR, particularly as it relates to the trigger values for full compliance including the 30% and dollar value regulations. And you are correct on so much. But I don't understand the "cheap landlord comment". In addition to working for the Commonwealth on MAAB/ADA compliance projects I do a lot of retail / restaurant work for private property owners. New compliant entry? Not one of the cheapest of souls has balked at this. That costs about 5k between the door operator and actuator ($1500), the additional electrical wiring ($1000) and then demo and reconfigure and additional hardware costs ($2500). Not so bad and no complaints on that. Accessible bathrooms? Doing, if required, but don't if not-it easily adds up to $20-30k for reconfiguration per bathroom, new plumbing, new fixtures-the list goes on. As you are renovating part of this cost is life safety additions such as emergency lighting and new horn strobes tied to the FACP (Fire Alarm Control Panel). I don't see "cheap landlords" just people trying to not get killed by regulations. They are working people too and this is part of their business. You would go broke as a small property owner bringing things to compliance that aren't required. Or you, as a tenant, would complain about your lease cost. Ultimately, as I stated in a previous comment, the AHJ's typically require full compliance with the regulations for a C of O and we sign affidavits that we are compliant.

This guy was a true legal troll that hurt the effort more than he helped.

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Devil's advocate

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Only playing devil's advocate here. I agree that where at all physically and structurally possible all work done to buildings should be made universally accessible.

That being said, one of the exceptions in MAAB is:

3.3.1 b. c. Roof repair or replacement, window repair or replacement, repointing and masonry
repair work.

One could argue that storefront is windows.

Again: I believe all effort must be made to make a space universally accessible.

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Because it would take effort

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Because it would take effort for the city and state to do that, while suing is free money for the lawyers.

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re: Why does it take a private

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This is not "Civil Rights Enforcement" it is MAAB/ADA compliance. There is no requirement for re inspection of commercial properties every 5 years for compliance. Compliance is triggered by MAAB 521 CMR section 3 Jurisdiction or as per ADA (MAAB is more about dimensional requirements, ADA broader view) for compliance. So under MA building code you may be ok under 521 CMR but you can still be sued under ADA.

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Because

Civil suit is the way ADA is enforced. Its how the law was designed. If you have an issue with that take it up with George Bush.

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RIP

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Sadly, ADA enforcement is mostly left to the people who need access, through filing suits. These actions are very important - ADA helps many people, not just those in wheelchairs. Thank you, Mr. Marradi, for tackling this problem.

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More like Rot In Hell IMO

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It's pretty clear that this guy was just the shill plaintiff for the lawyers (one in Florida?!) who were filing these suits; that's obvious from the fact that the lawyers filed a motion for extra time to see if they could scare up another shill plaintiff for the suits which were outstanding.

There was a 60 Minutes piece a couple of years back about how the ADA was being used to shake down small business owners in what they called "drive-by lawsuits." The transcript is here: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-americans-with-disabilities-act-... Lawyers would recruit plaintiffs and give them a cut of the settlements.

If the real concern were actually about accessibility, you wouldn't see a need to ask for damages...

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Really?

Perhaps you should do as the architecture students do in many college programs and spend a day in a wheelchair trying to get into buildings, onto subway platforms, onto buses, etc.

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Not this time

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The fact that the fellow was using a Florida lawyer gives all the information that is needed. This is drive by law suits by attorneys looking for easy pickins. In other words lawyers who abuse the law to enrich themselves. If Mr. Marradi needed to use a Florida lawyer to press his case then the matter smells worse than week old dead lobster left outside in summer.

Wait! A lawyer who violates the spirit of law by abusing the letters of the law? No, not in the nation. We know that all lawyers are upstanding citizens who believe in the noblest of all legal concerns. Just ask Michael Cohen.

Look at who they want to sue now. Fiores. A small single shop. An easy target.

Did Mr. Marradi ever even want to enter into Fiore's? I would not be surprised if he did not even know the business existed.

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The fact the lawyer inquired as to whether someone

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else would take over the pending lawsuits should be all the evidence (pardon the pun) to prove the lawyer is looking to leech off the legal system in hopes of making a quick buck.

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Psssh

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I have a close relative who requires a wheelchair or mobility scooter to go more than about 50 feet due to his MS, so I'm well aware of the challenges out there for some folks. But... if your real goal is to improve access for the disabled, private ADA compliance lawsuits, while allowed under the law, should be your very last resort. Just talking to the owner (or having a local advocacy group talk to the owner) is probably enough to ensure meaningful compliance in most cases.

These sorts of suits rarely go after the big guys (i.e. McDonald's, Dunkin Donuts, CVS, Walmart, etc.) because they typically have standard ADA-compliant designs which get plopped down whenever they build or remodel a location. They've also got the resources to ensure that locations in existing buildings (as one typically sees in cities like Boston) are made compliant.

The targets of these lawsuits are usually small, often immigrant-owned, businesses whose proprietors are typically unaware of the minutiae of compliance with ADA.

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RIP

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Unfortunately you are incorrect and many people jumped on your bandwagon. Reality is most building inspectors in the local AHJ make MAAB/ADA compliance a major part of granting permits and receiving a C of O. State building inspectors which are the AHJ on Commonwealth of Mass. owned buildings even more so. Enforcement is actually quite strict and as someone that specializes in MAAB/ADA compliance Mr. Marradi's lawsuits were often without merit and really just hurt small business owners that were compliant with the regulations. But cheaper to pay the lawsuits. He was a classic troll and hurt the effort more than he helped. I'm currently working on about $1.5 million of compliance projects for the Commonwealth of Mass. as identified by "experts". If you knew the details you would be horrified. But compliance is compliance and people like Mr. Marradi are willing to sue you.

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Good riddance

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ADA is one of the saddest laws we have. On paper it sounds good (let's help persons with disabilities) but in practice it offers convenience to startlingly few by burdening the many, enforced by a community of troll lawyers.

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Boy, aren't you a prize?

Better if all those worthless cripples just stayed home, instead of wanting to go places and do things, right?

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More accurately, the problem

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More accurately, the problem is "wanting to do things AT SPECIFIC places". That's one of the critical problems with the law that opens it up to abuse by troll lawyers and clients who genuinely don't care whether a school's swimming pool has a chairlift bolted to the floor, as opposed to one that's stored in a closet and wheeled out once every leap year when someone in a wheelchair wants to use it. Except they care that they can sue the school and get money out of it.

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False dichotomy.

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False dichotomy.

There can be a world where people with disabilities have access to businesses, yet small business owners don't get financially ruined because they put a display of cans a few inches too close to the shelf and a lawyer sues for major legal fees before they have a chance to correct it.

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Examples?

Can you provide specific documented examples of "business owners being financially ruined" by ADA accommodations?

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re: Examples?

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I can as I specialize in architectural compliance. And this is not to say I fight the compliance in any way-I only go for variances when it is an absolute necessity based on hardship. While I can't publicly out anyone, yes, there are many cases of small business owners being financially ruined. Typically it up to the business owner, not the landlord, to pay for thee expenses as they triggered compliance. If you had a small business and were forced to comply with some of these issues you would cry foul so fast...

I work closely with the MAAB and sometimes it gets down to making "more compliant". They are very reasonable to work with.

FYI for anyone following my comments on this my interest in consulting on this is personal-I'm legally blind, legally deaf and have a physical impairment that can make walking a challenge. I don't go for blood on compliance, just reason. I've been consulting on these issues since the early 80's when I volunteered for an organization in Portland, Oregon that was trying to make guidelines for accessible kitchens in public/multi-unit housing. That said I often times find the regulations over the top and will fight for my clients rights. There are some things under ADA that make my life worse-I can't bend down to see elevator buttons and signage at compliant height. So it's not one size fits all to bitch about.

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The T.

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The T had to spend hundreds of thousands in continuing bus service because the rebuilt Ashmont station still did not meet ADA standards during the several years it was closed. The T had to continue bus service until the elevator was ready.

The sensible method would be to provide on call door to JFK or Shawmut service for handicapped individuals instead of holding up the entire enterprise of opening Ashmont Station for everyone else and continuing unnecessary bus service.

ADA is a good law in spirit. But there obviously are aspects that are poorly written.

In an adult world both the majority and the real minority (e.g. handicapped) can be accommodated. In a juvenile black and white world it's an either/or proposition.

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The ADA helps more people than you think

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First of all, it doesn't just provide "convenience" to the disabled, it enables them to function in society instead of being shut away.

Secondly, changes made to help the disabled help a lot of people who are not obviously disabled, such as the elderly and people traveling with small children.

Third of all, you can bring an ADA suit that does not result in money going to the plaintiff. It only forces an institution to make arrangements for the disabled. This would not be attractive to lawyers.

Lastly, I think that if you are ever injured yourself, you would change your mind pretty quickly.

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Not me. I've had plenty of

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Not me. I've had plenty of experience navigating with wheeled mobility devices for both myself and family members. Yet I still can't stand predatory lawsuits.

We have the lawsuits, yet even the busiest sidewalks and curbcuts in downtown Boston are a total mess if you're on wheels. This means the current legal scheme is NOT working. A lot of money is being spent, but it goes to the lawyers, not solving the problem.

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re: The ADA helps more people than you think

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In Raoul Marradi's case the lawyer always got something-that's why it continued and that was his financial support. The money he won, put towards compliance, would have helped more.

Your view is from the outside and honestly entitled-not as someone that has disabilities.

Spend some time reading thru 521 CMR and ADA (massive), think about your world, what benefits you and at what cost. As mentioned previously I consult on this, have some disabilities but also find much of it over the top. There are solutions based on reason.

Not to get PC, as I am far from it, but there seems to be a lot of "disability appropriation" going on here.

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Including Fiore's?

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ADA is good law in spirit. But this is a fellow who aided and abetted in the harassment of small businesses that don't have the tens of thousands required to create a ramp for accessing their business.

Have you bought baked goods or coffe at Fiores? The sidewalk is standard: i.e,. wide enough for 2 people to walk along it. There is no room for a ramp.

This is a fellow who let himself be used by lawyers who abuse law to enrich themselves.

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You are a sad boy

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Seriously - you whine about people on welfare and dependent on government, then demand that all people who have disabilities be on welfare or dependent on government just because you don't like ramps or can't be bothered to be a decent human being.

Break a leg!

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Aging population

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MA has an aged and aging population.

ADA is a huge asset to keeping elders able to care for themselves.

May you sit in your diapers for long periods of time because you can't get to the store to get more.

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re: Aging population

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The CVS / Walmart you go to for your Depends is likely to be compliant. Yet to see one that isn't...

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whole new perspective on our lives

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Over a year ago my wife broke the patella and fractured the tibia in her right leg. Her kneecap had to be put back together, into position and immobilized for months until it healed. At first she needed an ambulance to come and get her into and out of the house for check-ups. We were informed chair cars do not come to private homes. Then home rehab taught her how to ascend and descend the stairs using a bathtub seat; long, laborious, but ingenious!

All is well now. The episode put a whole new perspective on our lives and we now look around us differently.

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Fiore's

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Fiore's cafe, like a lot of older places built before the ADA, has two steps up to get to the front door which is too narrow for a wheelchair, and there is not enough space inside for a wheelchair to navigate. The entire place would have to rebuilt and enlarged. It has abutters on both sides which makes it nearly impossible to do. While it would be great to make every place accessible to physically handicapped people, it would require rebuilding the city for the most part.

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re: Fiore's

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Think about what it would take to make Newbury Street compliant! That said there are recent two projects that triggered MAAB and had to. When I worked on Nantucket I did a study for making Main Street retail compliant-it was ugly and millions of dollars. Sometimes it's just hard or in reality a hardship. 25 years ago I did a restaurant in Cambridge where we were required to make compliant. Chef owner with not a lot of money. $110k project (excepting some new equipment) and $20k of that for compliance. In 18 years open not one person that needed accessibility (short of a few drunk patrons). Not much $ over the years for this but as an upfront cost it was brutal,

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Landlords need to spend a little money now and then

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Most landlords use tenants as cash cows, having them pay the property taxes, water/sewer. hvac, and build-out costs. Landlords should have to pay for accommodations.

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Watch the video

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Mr. Marradi was willing to take reporters to businesses he could not enter because they were not ADA compliant. When his attorneys got wind of that they "shut it down."

Mr. Marradi was willing to show where the problems were but his attorneys from Florida did not want this to be revealed. Plus the issue could be settled with simple letters. Civil suits where lawyers suck up lots of money are not necessary. Given that these suits are hard to win for the defendants they would wind up paying the attorneys.

How much money did Mr. Marradi receive from these suits? Including the 15 files in one day. Suits filed against businesses that perhaps he would never actually be interested in patronizing?

This has all the halllmarks of morally corrupt attorneys. Corrupt who see easy money. By their corruption they in turn create an us versus them resentment between small business patrons - Fiores - and the patrons who are wheelchair bound.

Attorneys that today would be fare more suited to be in the current White House.

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I love how everyone praises

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I love how everyone praises this guy. Way to live out the American dream by making it a goal to sue.

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