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Wheelchairs of Fortune 

Attorney Tom Frankovich and his disabled clients sue small businesses to make them accessible - and make millions

Wednesday, Jul 25 2007
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"These actions have to be handled just right or they can easily be thrown out of court," he says. "He's very proficient. I couldn't do what he does. He deserves everything he gets."


Frankovich is also nothing if not cautious. Following several death threats a few years ago, he upgraded security at his office. A sign in front warns off casual visitors, noting that admittance is by appointment only. Although he shrugs off the threats, it didn't keep him from acquiring a concealed weapon permit.

But these days, his worries are primarily judicial. An appeals court ruling on the Rafeedie reprimand is expected at any time and the state bar investigation continues to hang over him. Even if he dodges the disciplinary bullet, defense lawyers may not have him to kick them around much longer. He admits to considering hanging up his legal spurs to devote more time to the ranch.

"I'd like to stick it out for maybe two or three more years, because I've got some important cases I'd like to see through the appeals process," he says. "With me, it's these disabled people I represent who keep me going."

Ironically, few, if any, of them have ever been to his law office.

Nineteen steps above the street and without an elevator, the yellow three-story building that has served as the nerve center for countless ADA lawsuits is itself inaccessible to the disabled. The man who's built a career tormenting the law's non-compliers as scofflaws — and making them pay — must arrange off-site meetings to confer face-to-face with anyone in a wheelchair.

Besides ruining the architecture, putting in an elevator could cost a small fortune. According to the law, he says, it isn't "readily achievable."

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Ron Russell

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