On at least one issue in this story I have some sympathy for the plaintiff, but otherwise this looks like one of those cases where neither of the parties deserved anything at all.
John F. Peoples is a 60-year-old Pennsylvania attorney who has been legally blind since birth. He filed a discrimination lawsuit against his Pilates instructor and his credit-card company, saying that she had taken advantage of him and the company had not done enough to protect him. Peoples alleged that the woman had overbilled him by $8,600, “knowing he was blind and could not see he was being tricked.” In fact, it turned out he knew perfectly well he was being tricked, because as he admitted during his deposition, the woman was not a Pilates instructor, but a prostitute.
In his complaint, Peoples seems to have initially fudged this issue by alleging only that the defendant “advertises herself as an expert at providing personal, hands-on service to individual customers in private sessions at a set rate.” I guess that does cover it either way.
In addition to that artfully vague allegation, eyebrows were probably raised by the amount Peoples was paying for Pilates lessons. He claimed that the defendant had cheated him by getting him to sign credit-card slips (which he could not see) for amounts up to $1,600. He alleged she had significantly overcharged him because this was much more than the $375 an hour he had agreed to pay. Now, I don’t know that much about Pilates, but I’m pretty sure Pilates instructors don’t bill more than I do. Whether Mr. Peoples knew that or not, he conceded in his deposition that he had knowingly been paying for sex. He was still mad, though, that he had been vastly overcharged. (He said he discovered this when, at some point, his mother read him his credit-card bill.)
Asked whether he had ever “thought twice” about engaging in this activity, given that it is a crime and he is a lawyer, he said no. He said—and this is the sympathy item—that he felt he had little choice because “[w]omen aren’t too interested in blind men . . . . If you go to a singles bar with a stick in your hand, you’re not going to be attacked by women.” That is probably true, and I do have some sympathy for a disabled man in that situation, not that I am endorsing his solution. As far as his license was concerned, though, he said “it doesn’t bother me because it doesn’t affect my practice of law. Prostitution, I believe, is a misdemeanor.” (That appears to be true in Pennsylvania.) Even if convicted, it would not be a problem for the disciplinary board.” (That is very likely false.)
For her part, the defendant denied any wrongdoing and stuck to the story that she is a $375-an-hour Pilates instructor. More specifically, she describes herself as a “fitness instructor, professional dancer, actor and [interestingly] an adjunct professor.” (The report did not say what subject she teaches.) She countersued, alleging that Peoples had “inappropriately touched her butt” and had sued her only after she rebuffed his advances. Peoples denied that and mocked the claim that defendant had given him Pilates lessons, stating that he is 60 years old and has arthritis, diabetes and chronic fatigue syndrome. “[I’m] barely able to walk, let alone do Pilates,” Peoples said in court documents. “[Sex is] one of the few exercises I get to do.”
Both cases were dismissed, which seems like the only appropriate result here. Judge Edmund Ludwig held that Peoples could not recover against the credit-card company because the charges were admittedly for an illegal and “prohibited transaction” and so violated the cardmember agreement. His claim against the woman also failed, probably because of illegality or estoppel. More broadly, the ADA did not apply, the judge reportedly wrote, because that law applies only to “public accommodations.” I was hoping this was based on the fact that although Peoples was being “accommodated,” it wasn’t in public, but it was just because the judge held the ADA did not apply to credit-card transactions.
Peoples said he plans to appeal. Credit is due to the Daily News reporter who wrote that by doing so, he is evidently still “hoping for a happy ending.”