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.