Team Prenda's Paul Hansmeier Now Suing Companies Over Supposed ADA Violations

from the everything's-a-shakedown dept

Team Prenda’s Paul Hansmeier appears to believe in a simple formula for what he does. Find some highly questionable scenarios where he can file expensive lawsuits that are more of a nuisance than anything else, while offering up ample opportunities for parties to “settle.” Obviously, his involvement in the Steele/Hansmeier/Prenda operations have received the most attention, but as we’ve been discussed, he’s also been involved in the very questionable businesses of class action objections, in which he finds class action lawsuits that are almost settled, and then objects — but makes it clear he’ll “settle” for a big chunk of cash upfront. A few different people alerted me last week that Hansmeier’s latest version of this appears to be going after companies for supposed Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violations — including claiming that their websites violate the ADA.

Like so much of what Team Prenda gets involved in, this plan appears to be copied from others. Last year, we wrote about a dangerous ruling that suggested that Netflix could be subject to the ADA for not making its movie streaming accessible to the deaf. At the time, we noted that this could be a dream for shady lawyers, and it looks like Hansmeier felt this was a perfect role for him. Hansmeier appears to be targeting small businesses — those who are least likely to be able to afford a full legal defense, making them a lot more willing to settle. In one case, he’s sued a dentist, arguing that the website does not comply with the ADA. Another case involves a small sporting goods store, though at least the accusations there are about the physical store, rather than the website. Even then, though, the accusations seem questionable. Hansmeier claims that the store is not accessible because there’s a step in the front — but the store owner’s response points out that there’s a second, fully accessible entrance for wheelchairs in the back, which is open during all store hours. Hansmeier also argues that the bathroom in the store does not have grab bars and thus is not ADA compliant, but the store owner points out that the bathroom is for staff use only, and it sounds like he let the guy in the wheelchair that Hansmeier is representing, Jaime Veliz, use the staff-only bathroom as a favor. As a thanks for that, they get sued.

Once again, all of these lawsuits that Hansmeier gets involved in seem to show a fairly similar pattern, looking for scenarios where it will almost always be less of a hassle to just pay off Hansmeier to go away than to challenge the (often questionable) legal claims in court. It’s unclear how many of these ADA lawsuits Hansmeier has filed. There are only two in federal court, where they’re easy to find, but the latest one was actually filed in Minnesota state court, and was then removed to federal court. For all we know there could be more in Minnesota state court, which are harder to find out about. Either way, Hansmeier really seems like the kind of person who gives lawyers such a bad reputation.

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Comments on “Team Prenda's Paul Hansmeier Now Suing Companies Over Supposed ADA Violations”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Copyright enforcers proving once again, they can’t do shit without being unoriginal or breaking the law. To be fair not a lot of people can avoid being either of those two at all times, but it’s hilariously hypocritical when you consider who we’re dealing with.

horse with no name is probably going to whine about how overstepping and IP-unfriendly this judge is, too.

“It’s starting to bore me how much you suck.” – The Scout

horse with no name says:

Re: Re:

Nice attempt to bait me. You might think Steele is a scumbag, but maybe if copyright law didn’t favor infringers so much, he wouldn’t have been driven to sue people. Otis Wright going unpunished is a death knell for honest content creators everywhere and the brave lawyers who defend them.

Yet another comment to be held in moderation for telling the truth. I only wish Mike Masnick was as punishing towards enemies of copyright like you, instead of continuing on this misguided campaign to smear me and his other critics.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yeaaah, the fact that after all this you still continue to put ‘Steele/Prenda’ and ‘honest’ in the same category, even remotely, just proves beyond a shadow of a doubt you’ve not read a single article talking about their actions since they were first covered here, but have only seen what you wanted to see, reality and evidence to the contrary be damned.

You need to take your ‘every use of copyright is good’ blinders off, and realize that when multiple federal judges, due to the evidence presented(or lack thereof when it comes to Prenda’s testimonies*, statements and ‘counter arguments’) issue rulings accusing a group of multiple counts of fraud, lying to the courts, and abusing the system, then maybe the ones you so stridently defend aren’t the good guys.

*Speaking of testimonies, funny how they have no problem running their mouths off outside of court, but when it comes to inside the court, where they’d face the threat of perjury if caught lying, and could be cross-examined, they all suddenly develop either problems speaking, or memory difficulties, leading to a different story every time. Hardly the kind of activity you’d expect from a group who truly believed that the evidence and the law was on their side, wouldn’t you say?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Wow, aren’t you the glutton for punishment? Every time you post here people play a laugh track so they can have fun at the expense of your miserable intelligence.

I’d say “horse with no name just hates it when due process is enforced”, but it looks like people are catching on and speaking for me instead. Or, more accurately, indicated what any idiot with half a brain could have realised after reading your stupidity.

Each and every time you post here is just going to make it laughably easy for anyone to search for traces of your idiocy, despite baseless claim after baseless claim of you somehow being censored. Obviously you don’t get it because you lack the intelligence to understand how fucked you are. But hey – you copyright cocksuckers have made it clear you’re not big on facts. Or brains.


Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hey Paul. Wow so not only a Troll lawyer, but also a troll poster (which fits into the segway of your “Under The Bridge” consulting firm)

Nice of you to admit that it’s you that has been posting away here…oops didn’t mean to come out and give that away did you? Noe worries there, we are used to You, Steele and Duffy pulling a Pretenda.

Not to worry I am sure you will claim it’s Mark Lutz posting (You know Mark has lots of time on his hands to post here in between running a multi-faceted organization of various holding companies and shell entities)

So worried about being baited but yet come out and admit it’s you posting here in defense of your cellmate -er- partner Steele.

So Paul when you and Steel files that genius move of the Bar complaint about Gibbs, did even occur to you that Gibbs would have had records of phone calls, emails, faxes, courier receipts etc for his case records and billings along with for tax purposes? Just curious about that colossal blunder that brought forward the income you and Steele have been pilfering -er- making from victims -er- infringers.

Bet you weren’t counting on the Dropbox details coming out huh…another famed Pretenda oops!

So Paul I have to ask you, now that Duffy realizes how much you and Steele have been making and how little he has received for his efforts, but yet having to take all the media heat and court judgments and bar referrals and being on the hook for this bond, how long do you think it will be before he pulls a Gibbs and switches sides to get out from under?

Honestly Paul you may have just made another new enemy with Duffy seeing how much you guys have been taking and how little has come his way.

Duffy I am sure is feeling the financial strain of all these expenses for court, and for the bond and various sanctions and having to fly around and try and dig out from under all this mess.

I wonder if a Grand Jury that could be looking at a possible RICO case will be looking at Paul to come testify. I would be of the opinion that Duffy must be seething about getting such a minuscule amount of a 1.9 million dollar take.

Duffy would be a very attractive witness for co-operation in a RICO case you would have to believe. Duffy would also be a great witness for the IRS Criminal Division investigators because after all it is Duffy that would be taking the hit since his name is the Principal of Prenda Law.

I bet Old Duffy would love to get out from under, get rid of all the media attention, the financial strain, the peril of his being able to practice due to the bar complaints, the constant court sanctions… how easy this would be to do if he was a witness instead of being on the hook so to speak.

I bet old John and you have had a few conversations about that Bar complaint about Gibbs huh, and how that shouldn’t have been done in anger and without some thought eh.

So what are you going to do about Lutz Paul, he can’t play the invisible man forever now can he.

I mean lets be honest Paul how long do you think it will be before a Judge orders the U.S. Marshall service to find Mark and bring him to court, can keep making excuses for ever Paul.

Lutz can only not be found, or miss a flight, or have his cat go in for surgery or claim illness so many times before some Judge tires of the litany of “Where’s Waldo” starring Mark Lutz sightings.

I have to wonder how long Lutz will last to before he flips, we all know Lutz isn’t a corporate genius you and Steele have built him up to be, if he was you boy would have had him in court by now.

I gather that Lutz’s performance in Florida where he tried to play corporate representative and bombed so badly upon questioning from the Judge over seeing the case has shaken the belief that he would be able to with stand even the slightest of scrutiny.

I don’t blame you at all, I mean Old John leaning forward , desperately trying to whisper answers to Mark to stave off the Judge finding out what was really going on in her courtroom, who would wan’t to go thru that again right.

now let’s hypothesis for a minute here, you and John sure have your backs in a corner, so Paul let me ask you, I don’t think John would do well in Prison if you two were say convicted of RICO and tax evasion, now lets say that did happen (Hypothetically… but hey even we have a dream!)how long do you think it would take John to wan’t to cut a deal and try and save himself?

This John would do that after all you have been through since Law School? I have to tell you Paul I am a little concerned for you buddy, I mean you could be the last man standing in all this.

Hypothetically John could say this was all your idea, the suing of down loaders for porn companies, the cutting the porn companies out to not have to give up any share of settlements, the making of your own companies, offshore entities and own porn movies to sue infringers.

John in theory could say you were the mastermind, and point to you using class action suits that are in the midst of settling and then objecting for a go away fee.

Then of course you have this ADA settlement business going on. I could see where John could use this to very convincingly point the finger you way and seeing “he is the brains behind it”.

But of course I don’t think John would do this to you to avoid facing a RICO case if one were brought forward…NAH!

You and John are tight right.. I am sure it’s just my opinion getting the best of me… silly RICO & IRS investigations and all.

Well thanks for dropping by all these months Paul we sure have enjoyed those clever retorts from you. See you on visitation day -er- I mean in the next story comments.

sophisticatedjanedoe (profile) says:

I suggested that Hansmeier could sue courts: many of them don’t run OCR on scanned PDFs, thus making those documents inaccessible for the blind. I was pointed out that suing government is not lucrative, as all plaintiff could get is an injunctive relief. I still think it is a good idea and expect our big league noble man to do it: justice is all he needs, doesn’t he? Money is a secondary, less important issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Weird question...

If the ADA is a compliance law, how is it that an individual can file a lawsuit against it? Shouldn’t enforcement be done by some state agency?

This seems somewhat like Hansmeier getting a radar gun, then pulling over motorists who are exceeding the speed limit. How the hell would that be legal?

Shawn (profile) says:

Re: Weird question...

Complaints of title III violations may be filed with the Department of Justice. In certain situations, cases may be referred to a mediation program sponsored by the Department. The Department is authorized to bring a lawsuit where there is a pattern or practice of discrimination in violation of title III, or where an act of discrimination raises an issue of general public importance. Title III may also be enforced through private lawsuits. It is not necessary to file a complaint with the Department of Justice (or any Federal agency), or to receive a “right-to-sue” letter, before going to court. For more information, contact:

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Disability Rights Section – NYAV
Washington, D.C. 20530

scote (profile) says:

Re: Re: These are, unfortunately, perfect for unethical lawyers...

Yeah, ADA lawsuits are really perfect for Hansmeier. An ADA plaintiff can sue and demand money without ever contacting the business to get the problems changed first. Because the nuisance suits are all about money, not about disabled rights. Just like Prenda was all about Prenda profits, not about infringement of copyrights.

drewf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Weird question...

Because the ADA law allows for private lawsuits it has enabled a popular scam amongst shady lawyers in the real world.

Here In San Francisco shady lawyers pair up with ethical challenged disability sufferers. They seek out neighborhood shops, i.e. coffee shops, boutiques, pet food stores, etc.. These ordinary small business owners often haven’t the funds to go full tilt on ADA compliance. So, bathroom sink might be a few inches too high or a door a few inches too narrow. The lawyer/disability sufferer pair hit the small business with a template lawsuit for non-compliance to the ADA and offer to settle for several thousand dollars.

Of course, the small business owner, originally challenged by the costs of ADA compliance now find there is no way they can defend themselves in court without paying considerably more money than the offered settlement.

Here is an excerpt from a story from SFGate about the problem:

One of them is Roberto Guerrero, co-owner of Cumaica Coffee, a spin-off of Martha & Bros., with four locations in San Francisco. Last year, Guerrero was sued for $87,000 for minor infractions, such as a recycling bin blocking the entrance to the restroom, at the Clement Street shop in the Inner Richmond. Despite fixing the problems, he said, the suit went ahead, and Guerrero wound up settling with the plaintiff for $19,500.

Oila. The lawyer and disability sufferer each walk away with several thousand dollars and move on to the next defendant.

It looks like Paul H. is just trying to extend this business model to the Internet. If we needed any more proof that he was a scam artist this is it.

I believe that the US Chamber of Commerce has a task force on this issue and I am sure it would be very interested to put its full weight behind nipping any attempts to extend this scam business model to the Internet.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Weird question...

Here In San Francisco shady lawyers pair up with ethical challenged disability sufferers.

In San Diego, not to be out-done, we actually have a ethically challenged disability sufferer who is also a lawyer by the name of Thomas Pinnock, who has done more to kill respect for the ADA then anywhere else (it was even featured on the Bullshit Disability episode!) He sued an entire town for not being wheelchair friendly, and had filed over 2100 suits before the state bar yanked his license for being a douche.

Hopefully Hansmeier does what Pinnock couldn’t do…make such an ass of himself that Congress has no choice but to relook at the law and close the private lawsuit madness loophole in the law (or better yet, scrap the law and come up with something that helps disabled folks integrate better into society while not making it a legal lottery for the lawyers.

Zem (profile) says:

Hold on a minute

As this is a real individual bringing the case, as opposed to a company front, I think it a little unreasonable to jump the gun and assume the true intent is to extort a settlement. Just becuse the lawyer representing them comes from the Prenda cesspool does not mean that Ms Lily Poss is of the same ilk.

I did a quick net search and the Lilp Poss I found, with a vision disability, came across as a nice, hard working person.

Of course, the Prenda clowns are already accused of forging someones identity, is it a step too far to start forginging clients, intending that you never have to appear in court?

Scote (profile) says:

Re: No reason to assume the benefit of the doubt...

The ADA makes it far to easy to sue and demand money for the plaintiff who has zero out of pocket damages rather than suing just for fixes.

I know of a lawyer who was sued because a door was a 1/2 inch too narrow. The professional plaintiff went around with a measuring tape looking for deep pockets, but not too deep (because they might not settle), to sue. And sue first, not ask for fixes first.

The East Bay Express did an article on how the process can be abused.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Hold on a minute

Then there is the fact that she is a “professional” tester to see if people meet what she thinks the ADA demands.
Teamed up with a “class action” lawyer who files ‘pay me or I ruin your almost settled action’ lawsuits.

And there were questions about some of the class action ‘victims’ he represented… one had a name that matched a name with a constantly shifting spelling…

One might have noticed a theme with Pretenda related lawyers, they promise clients lots of cash to compensate them for their “damages” and to keep that cash flowing one has to keep filing.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Hold on a minute

Well, the very idea that a website can possibly violate the ADA is bullshit in the first place (regardless of how legal it may be), given that the accessibility problems are readily solved by the user’s browser. I’m quite comfortable questioning the integrity of anyone who sues over it instead of resolving their problem.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

the prudent thing to do...

…is assume all lawyers are scum…

sorry, 1-10% of lawyers who aren’t scum, but that’s what you get for NOT policing your own…

we’ve now become a society smothered with laws with no meaning but for those who have the money/influence to enforce them…

‘nation of laws’ has become a sick joke…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

stryx (profile) says:

Re: Paul Hansmeier....

Seriously Crusty, I can’t believe you don’t see that the Prenda crew are lifted straight out of Simpsons episodes.

First I thought it Prenda was Lionel Hutz ,

Now I’m thinking more Fat Tony:

% At school, Bart has trouble getting up the front stairs in his wheelchair and winds up tipping over. Lisa comes over to help.

Skinner: Bart, stop fooling around.
Lisa: Principal Skinner, I thought public schools were required to have access ramps for the disabled.
Skinner: Technically, yes, but the building costs would be astronomical.
Fat Tony: [emerges from behind a tree] Did I hear the word “astronomical”? If so, my construction outfit “Valdezzo Brothers Olive Oil” is poised to help.
Skinner: No, no, no, no. We’re not building anything.
Fat Tony: How can you say that when construction has already begun?
[construction workers arrive and start massive construction]
Skinner: How did those trucks get here so fast?!
Fat Tony: In order to avoid certain legal complications, the trucks are always rolling. Now for the groundbreaking ceremony.
[Fat Tony and Principal Skinner hold a golden shovel for a picture]
— “Grift of the Magi”

SirWired says:

Not a new scheme

“Regulation farming” is not a particularly new or innovative business plan; he’s hardly the first to go trolling around for businesses to slap with ADA suits.

California has their own particular breed of this sort of pond scum where lawyers go looking for businesses that have not posted one of those ubiquitous stupid signs stating “This Establishment Contains Chemicals Found by the State of California to Possibly Cause Cancer”. Inexplicably, the law requiring those signs has a private right of action, so it’s a lucrative thing for bottom-feeding lawyers to occupy themselves with in their spare time.

CTVic (profile) says:

Will somebody please strip this jackass’ license? He’s already having a bad year with his ties to Prenda leading to bar complaints, IRS complaints and DOJ complaints … but the motherfucker isn’t slowing down.
Lots of things in our legal system are severely broken, and one of them is that we lack an effective means of promptly shutting down predatory lawyers. While all of the paperwork is being shuffled and the red flags are being raised, this hyena is stripping baby carcasses clean.

We have an overabundance of lawyers in this country as it is, and you would think that we could put together some laws to cut out the festering boils from the system.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Disabilities

I know you are trying to make a joke here, but I just happened upon a thought while glazing over this article.

I think science should study this dudes brain after he dies. I want to know how someone that is so focused on such idle prattle continue to wake up every day and come up with the most random ways to ‘deal business’.

I personally lost interest in keeping up to the n’th degree on the Prenda stuff mostly because my brain can’t comprehend on how this guy wakes up every day and tries the most unbelievable shit.

Why couldn’t this type of brain be used for science, or medicine?

Was he dropped on his head as a child and it mushed a nerve that rewired his connections? If so, how could we do that for Doctors, Nurses, etc to get that kind of the ‘Out of the Box’ thinking for the topics that matter most, instead of this stupid copyright fuss.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:51pm
Has anyone ever looked into how many websites the prenda group has set up?

While reading the Memo by Paul Hansmeier I saw a “new website address” CLASSJUSTICE.ORG.
Has anyone ever looked into how many websites the prenda group has set up?

While reading the Memo by Paul Hansmeier I saw a “new website address” CLASSJUSTICE.ORG.

After looking at the website for a minute I saw a familiar outline used by disabled people to extort small busineses.

Hopefully these jerks don?t get into the ADA accessible shakedown scam.

A quick whois:
Domain ID:D166316312-LROR
Created On:10-Aug-2012 22:27:51 UTC
Last Updated On:10-Sep-2013 02:17:51 UTC
Expiration Date:10-Aug-2014 22:27:51 UTC
Sponsoring Registrar:eNom, Inc. (R39-LROR)
Registrant ID:35ff13faf327508b
Registrant Name:Paul Hansmeier
Registrant Street1:123 Justice Lane
Registrant Street2:
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City:Minneapolis
Registrant State/Province:MN
Registrant Postal Code:55401
Registrant Country:US
Registrant Phone:+1.6513991583
Registrant Phone Ext.:
Registrant FAX:
Registrant FAX Ext.:

sophisticatedjanedoe (profile) says:

Mike will definitely write about it ASAP, but this news is too big to wait:

The Court further concludes that, once all of the ill-gotten gains are fully disgorged from AF Holdings, it would not be a wise use of the Court?s limited resources to sua sponte attempt to fully untangle the relationship between ansmeier, Steele, Duffy, Dugas, Lutz and Prenda Law, on the one hand?and the Plaintiff, AF Holdings, LLC., on the other. Such investigation can more effectively be conducted by federal and state law enforcement at the direction of the United States Attorney, the Minnesota Attorney General and the Boards of Professional Responsibility in the jurisdictions where the attorneys involved in this apparent scheme are licensed to practice law.

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