Plaintiff Who Claims to Have End-Stage Emphysema Is Caught Hiking

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Hint: if the answer to the question below was "yes," they would not have videotaped him.


In this report from KABC-Los Angeles (via the LA Observed blog), investigative reporter Marc Brown finally caught up with James Farkus Cohan while he was out for a hike one sunny day. This was interesting in itself because people who really have end-stage emphysema, as Cohen claims to, are generally not too hard to catch up with.

The reason Brown was pursuing Cohan, besides just wanting to see what somebody named "Farkus" looks like, is that Cohan has filed at least 161 lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Cohan sues small businesses that allegedly do not provide the required access to the disabled, claiming he has standing to sue because he has "end-stage emphysema." Some doubt had apparently arisen about that, and ultimately Brown headed out with a camera crew to see what he could see. What he saw was Cohan out for a hike in rough terrain.

Experts agree that someone with end-stage emphysema would not be found hiking. "At minimum," said a pulmonologist contacted by KABC, "they need supplemental oxygen because their lungs cannot deliver enough oxygen to the blood to meet their needs." As you know if you watched the video, Cohan did not take oxygen on his hike. (He told the reporter he does have an oxygen tank – he just didn't have it with him.)

Cohan insisted that he does have end-stage emphysema, as he has stated when filing legal documents stating that his condition prevents him from easily doing things like "walking" and/or "breathing," both of which he appears to be doing quite easily in the video. Something else he does quite easily: throw out racial epithets, as he did after Brown asked him whether he makes a living by filing disability lawsuits. Experts agree that racism is not a side-effect of emphysema medication.

It's not clear how much Cohan makes from his lawsuits, but if even half settled for no more than a few thousand dollars, that's still a pretty good living. According to the owners of the businesses he has sued, Cohan typically asks for at least $10,000 to go away. (KABC invited many of these defendants to a local bar – which Cohan is also suing – for a video-watching party.) Whether he has ever actually prevailed in a case is unclear, but seems doubtful.

If Cohan has to make money doing this, maybe his other business is not doing so well. What is that business? Organ procurement. As this Forbes article noted in 2007, Cohan has worked as what he calls a "transplant coordinator," charging hundreds of thousands of dollars to "arrange" organ transplants. The article did not claim he had been doing anything illegal in doing so – he did spend some time in an Italian jail, but lots of innocent people do that – but it is at least ultra-creepy.

In fact, though, while Cohan does not appear to have end-stage emphysema, he does have a long criminal record. Most recently, he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, or more accurately 34 firearms, along with 31,000 rounds of ammunition. In fact, according to KABC Cohan is currently on probation and supposedly under "house arrest" at the moment. However, "probation officials would not tell Eyewitness News if the conditions of Cohan's house arrest allow occasional hiking trips."