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'Morbidly obese' man drops ADA lawsuit against Medford restaurant

A man who filed dozens of lawsuits alleging Americans with Disabilities Act violations — largely against small businesses — has dropped a pair of Oregon suits, including one that initially targeted three Medford restaurants.

Jose Velez, who has an Orlando, Florida, mailing address but also practices law in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, dropped his lawsuit last week against Noho’s Hawaiian Cafe in Medford and all co-defendants, according to a filing Velez made last week in U.S. District Court in Medford.

Velez says he suffers from morbid obesity and has filed numerous lawsuits against businesses claiming they violated ADA rules by not accommodating his condition.

Velez stated in his motion for dismissal that “given the COVID-19 situation,” he has “no intention to return to the public accommodation in question in the near future and has no intention of patronizing these specific public accommodations at this time.”

Citing similar reasons, Velez also dropped a separate civil rights suit in U.S. District Court in Oregon this week that targeted Jack Sprats Restaurant in Cottage Grove and Ranch Restaurant in Yoncalla.

Lawyer Ara Sahelian of Laguna Hills, California, who represented Noho’s and Jasper’s Cafe in the Medford suit, along with Jack Sprats and Ranch Restaurant, said he’s thrilled at the outcomes.

“Nobody from Oregon has paid him ransom money,” Sahelian said. “I”m hoping no restaurant in Oregon will ever have to pay him ransom money.”

The case was dismissed without prejudice to either side, and without costs or attorney fees to either side. But according to information reported last week in the Grants Pass Daily Courier, at least one other Southern Oregon business could still be a target.

Tina Gotchall, the third-generation owner of the Powderhorn Cafe in Grants Pass, said earlier this month that she had received a letter from Velez threatening legal action for alleged ADA violations. As of Thursday, Oregon U.S. District Court records showed no cases filed against Gotchall or Powderhorn Cafe, nor any new cases under Velez’ name.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Surveillance video shows Jose Velez walking back to his table at Jasper's Cafe in Medford with a drink in his hand.