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Chicago Attorney Accused Of Shaking Businesses Down With ADA Lawsuits

(CBS) -- Is he on a mission to help the disabled gain access to Chicago businesses, or just out to make money?

CBS 2's Roseanne Tellez reports.

The owner of Mixed Co. Salon says he's baffled by a lawsuit claiming his River North business isn't accessible to the disabled. He says there is a sign outside and buzzer and lift nearby. Nonetheless, he was in Federal Court on Friday, fighting a lawsuit.

"There are lots of costs operating a business. But this was not in our business plan," Dave Spillane says.

It's a familiar scenario for several businesses in River North. They told CBS 2 last year that those cases were more about making money than making changes.

In August, an attorney for Club Lago said the business met ADA requirements, but the owner was forced to decide between hiring an attorney and architects to prove it in court, or to settle with attorney John Steele.

Steele is the same attorney suing Mixed Co, and several other businesses in the area.

Tellez caught up with Steele in the federal courthouse today. He said he's making attorneys' fees on the case.

Advocates for the disabled say exchanging money to end these cases doesn't address accessibility issues.

Said Steele: "I have never settled a case without substantial changes made that make them ADA-compliant."

Businesses where cases were dropped -- and that now includes Club Lago -- would no longer take our questions, due to confidentiality agreements with Steele.

The owner of Mixed Co. insists his building is in compliance. But he says his attorneys' fees are already piling up. The two sides are back in court next week.

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