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Doggedly stubborn law firm sued over access for service animal

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

You would think that a personal-injury law firm would be sensitive to a client’s need for a service dog, but apparently attorneys at the firm of Larkin, Axelrod, Ingrassia & Tetenbaum are unfamiliar with Title III of the ADA.

The problems began when Lauren Klejmont hired the firm to pursue a personal-injury lawsuit. Klejmont has seizures, balance problems and memory trouble as a result of a spine and head injury. She also has limited motor function and uses a cane and leg brace. Her service dog, Reicha, picks things up and carries them for Klejmont, and helps her stand up when she falls. The dog also detects oncoming seizures.

In January 2009, Klejmont and Reicha went to the firm’s Newburgh office to meet with attorney John Ingrassia and other lawyers to discuss her case.

According to a suit Klejmont filed against the firm, the attorneys would not allow Reicha into Ingrassia’s office because he is allergic to dogs. Klejmont suggested meeting in a conference room, but the firm in­­sisted the dog could not be present.

Klejmont left and sent a letter complaining of her treatment. The firm offered to meet her in the firm’s parking lot as long as the dog stayed in her car. She rejected the offer and filed suit alleging the firm illegally barred a service dog in violation of the ADA.

The firm is offering no comment.

Note: The ADA requires all public accommodations to be open to service dogs. It seems this problem could have been easily avoided by having Ingrassia speak to Klejmont by intercom from his office to the conference room.

The point is that businesses must be flexible and creative in solving accessibility problems before they be­­come contentious—or spawn lawsuits.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Syrensilly February 12, 2012 at 5:07 am

There is no reason they should have to meet offsite. They could meet in a room where the person who is allergic is not located (which is a typical reasonable accommodation for both parties.). What many people don’t realize is that 99% of most peoples allergies are not to a disabling point (minor sniffles are not a disabling allergy, anaphylaxis would be.) . and that the average dog owner with a pet dog carries more dander and hair on their clothes than a well groomed service dog will usually have on them at any given time, and the allergic person is more likely to come in contact with the hair and dander from a typical pet owner than from a service dog lying under a table.
http://www.ada.gov/svcanimb.htm

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Syrensilly February 12, 2012 at 4:55 am

Another case of basically same problem also in a lawyers office.
Lawyer that didn’t allow SD into office
(Settled out of court)
http://www.ada.gov/lehouillier.htm

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priscilla February 7, 2012 at 1:17 am

Take a freaking Benedryl and get over it. What a loser.

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A Concerned Person February 6, 2012 at 2:50 am

I find it rather intriguing that a law firm for PERSONAL DISABILITIES happens to now be in for a law suit. My question is how many other dog owners have sat in the accosted lawyers office and his having had absolutely no problems that are mentioned in the news article and yet the moment someone who has a service dog has afore mentioned lawyer there is a dog allergy?

Why could the law firm not have accommodated the person who now is filing suit against them for not following the law, by say reassigning the case that was being handled by them for her to a different lawyer? Or secured an offsite meeting place for the lawyer and her so the dog was not in the lawyers office or building? Every public library I have been in has had private meeting or conference rooms that can easily be used.

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A Concerned Person February 5, 2012 at 6:21 pm

If a person is severely allergic to dogs, then they are also severely allergic to the hair and dander on the clothing of the dog’s owner. Leaving the dog in the car would not have resolved the allergy issue.

Unfortunately, some people are allergic to the sight of a dog. I have encountered this myself when I am seated with my service dog for an entire meal and no one notices until I stand to leave. They see my dog, who has been lying at my feet for nearly an hour, and suddenly they are allergic.

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