NEW YORK, June 28 (Reuters) - An Orange County law firm on
Wednesday settled a federal lawsuit accusing it of refusing to
meet with a disabled client because she was accompanied by a
The suit, brought by the Civil Rights Unit of the U.S.
Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, alleged
that the firm Larkin Axelrod Ingrassia & Tetenbaum and one of
its partners, John Ingrassia, discriminated against Lauren
Klejmont on the basis of her disability, a violation of Title
III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
The firm will pay $20,000 to Klejmont and a $5,000 civil
penalty to the U.S. It has also agreed to implement a new policy
on service animals, including posting a public sign declaring
"Service Animals Welcome," according to the terms of the consent
decree. The firm did not admit to violating federal law.
Ingrassia and a representative for the firm did not
immediately return requests for comment.
According to the complaint, Klejmont retained Larkin Axelrod
in 2007 to represent her in a personal injury lawsuit. Klejmont
had previously sustained spinal injuries and a closed-head
injury that caused her to have seizures, memory problems and
difficulty balancing. The disability, covered under Title III,
forced her to rely on the aid of her trained service dog, a
German Shepherd named Reicha, to perform tasks such as picking
up and carrying things.
In January 2009, Klejmont, accompanied by her dog, arrived
at the firm's Newburgh offices to discuss the case with an
unnamed partner and associate. The partner that Klejmont was
scheduled to meet asked her to leave the dog outside, explaining
that he suffered from allergies. He later apologized and offered
to make future advance arrangements to accommodate her and her
A year later, in January 2010, an associate attorney at
Larkin Axelrod scheduled a meeting with Klejmont but advised her
to leave her dog at home, explaining that he suffered from a
"dog phobia," according to facts stipulated in the consent
decree. He offered to meet her without the dog in the firm's
office or in the parking lot if the dog remained in the car, the
After the firm's principals learned about what transpired,
the associate called Klejmont and offered to meet with her and
her dog in the office, the decree stated.
The firm acknowledged in the decree that it did not have a
service animal policy in place at the time.
A lawyer for Klejmont did not return a call Thursday
The case is U.S. v. Larkin Axelrod Ingrassia & Tetenbaum and
John Ingrassia, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern
District of New York, No. 11-8003.
For the U.S.: Michael Byars.
For Larkin Axelrod: James Burke.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye)
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