Monday, November 21, 2005

Turnaround is fair play. Delicious, too.

If it was a sit-com plot, you’d dismiss it as too perfect. But the Galley restaurant in Morro Bay, CA, has pulled a virtuoso turn-about that’s as real as it is brilliant. The place had been sued in 2004 by professional litigant Jack Molski, who was seeking damages for the emotional distress and mental anguish he claims to have suffered as a result of allegedly hurting himself at the restaurant. Molski is a paraplegic, and he insists that he was injured because the Galley wasn’t in compliance with accessibility rules. The 35-year-old wants $1.6 million in compensation, according to local press reports.

I don’t mean to be callous, but Molski should really look into home-delivery. He’s been similarly damaged some 400 previous times, or so he’s alleged in an equal number of lawsuits. He’s been in more courtrooms than a gavel. So many hear-ye’s have been sounded in his name that he’s been ruled a “vexatious litigant” and barred from filing any other accessibility suits in state courts. So now he’s working county courts.

Facing that kind of claimant across the aisle, the Galley’s co-owners decided Molski wasn’t the only one who’s suffered some mental anguish since he paid their place a visit. So they decided to sue him. They filed a lawsuit last week seeking compensation from him.

The proprietors have only asked for $3,000. But here’s the brilliant part: Their lawsuit in effect pivots on Molski’s motivation for seeking $1.6 million, according to local observers of the proceedings. Suddenly, he’s the one who has to justify himself.

Sometimes it seems as if the trophy business owes its livelihood to the restaurant trade. Name a discipline, and chances are there’s an award for it, from top up-and-comers to the latest inductees into the old guard. You can bag a loving cup for being the best stock-picker, the concept most loathed by dietary nags, the best place to work, or the most considerate neighbor.

But there isn’t a prize yet forged that adequately honors the Galley’s proprietors for their legal ju-jitsu. If the situation is what it seems, they deserve an industrywide standing ovation.

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