TAMPA, Fla. - Howard Cohan left a Tampa courtroom refusing to answer any of our questions after day one of a two-day federal hearing.
The Boca Raton based former doctor is defending his right to sue the Arvilla Motel on Gulf Boulevard in St. Petersburg. Cohan sued the motel in 2015 for violating the Americans with Disability Act.
Among his accusations, the motel lacked disabled parking spots and did not have a pool lift.
The motel's owner, James Maurer disputed Cohan's claims saying they had a disabled parking spot that couldn't be seen in the photographs Cohan took of the property. He also said the motel's pool lift is a portable one that is kept in the shed until someone requests it.
Cohan voluntarily dismissed the case but the motel’s owner didn't want to let the case or Cohan go without a fight.
Cohan is Florida’s most prolific ADA plaintiff, having sued more than 1000 businesses for violations in the past 3 years.
"When he sued I just felt it was time after all of the neighbors got sued, that someone stood up to the man," Maurer said.
So Maurer let the case move forward to a Tampa federal courtroom. Maurer's attorney tried to prove Cohan and his attorneys filed the case in bad faith. A bad faith judgement would mean the Judge would force Cohan to pay the motel's more than $16,000 attorneys fees.
During the two-day hearing, Maurer's attorney questioned Cohan about why he visited the motel in the first place and why he included in his lawsuit a pathway [he alleged was in violation of ADA] that wasn't even part of the motel's property.
At one point, the motel's attorney showed in court video clips from an I-team investigation on Cohan and his lawsuits.
Cohan, who describes himself in lawsuits as an ADA "tester" and disabled himself, says he suffers from a variety of conditions including spinal stenosis. In video taken by the I-team, Cohan can be seen on video sweeping the front and upper corners of his home with a broom.
In the end, Judge James Whittmore of the Middle District, sided with Cohan. During his closing remarks, Judge Whittmore stated while the defense raised doubt over Cohan's credibility, and that his excessive lawsuits can be viewed as "opportunistic," federal law gives Cohan the right to be a serial-suer.
"I’m disappointed,” said Maurer. "He [Cohan} plays fast and loose with the truth."
Cohan once again offered no comment while making his way across a busy Tampa street to avoid our cameras and, instead, let his attorneys do the talking.
"Unfortunately in today’s world people think you have to be in a wheelchair to be disabled and that’s not what we have here. Mr. Cohan is disabled and he has the right to bring these lawsuits," said his attorney Gregory Sconzo of Palm Beach Gardens law firm, Kaplan, Sconzo & Parker.
When reporter Katie LaGrone asked Sconzo, "are you an opportunist? Is Mr. Cohan an opportunist?"
Sconzo responded, "He’s an advocate and we’re an advocate. That’s all I have to say.”