Prenda Lawyer's ADA Shakedown Efforts Running Into Resistance From Public, Judges

from the hoping-this-ends-up-in-tears-and-sanctions-as-well dept

Paul Hansmeier, having learned all he needs to know about practicing law from his years in the trolling trenches as part of Prenda Law, is now shaking down businesses using ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) lawsuits. This new (but not really) approach is slightly more palatable to the general public than attempting to fish a few bucks from randy torrenters via infringement lawsuits, but not by much. Those on the receiving end of these shakedown efforts don't see much difference between Hansmeier's new approach and the actions that netted him and Prenda Law sanctions from multiple courts.

Hansmeier still seems enthralled with the possibility of easy money, even if his experience with Prenda Law didn't exactly pan out the way its principals hoped. Most are still in the process of extracting themselves from the flaming wreckage of Prenda, but they're limping away, rather than strutting. Some may even face jail time for contempt.

Hansmeier and his non-profit (Disability Support Alliance) -- which exists nowhere but the Minnesota business registry and as a nominal plaintiff in his 50+ ADA lawsuits -- are running into roadblocks on Easy Buck Ave. One of the businesses he recently sued addressed his allegations by filing a $50,000 counterclaim for abuse of process and civil conspiracy.

Now, there's more trouble on the way.

Cal Brink was tired of the lawsuits that just kept coming. Since the first suit claiming lack of disability access was filed more than a year ago, businesses in this southwest Minnesota town of nearly 14,000 people have been worried that they, too, would be hit.

Nine lawsuits have been filed here so far by the Disability Support Alliance, a nonprofit group formed last summer, including one against the only bowling alley in town. The owner said he will soon close rather than pay the DSA’s $5,500 settlement offer or make the $20,000 of changes needed to comply with the Americans with ­Disabilities Act.

“Nobody fights them, because it’s going to cost you more to fight,” said Brink, executive director of the local Chamber of Commerce.

Now Marshall is fighting back. Working in concert with the Minnesota State Council on Disability, Brink developed an access audit for local businesses, allowing them to develop a plan to fix ADA issues and potentially to ward off litigation.

The plan has won the attention of the state Department of Human Rights, which hopes it could be used in other communities hit by serial litigation.
Since the putative goal is to improve access for the disabled, you'd think something called the "Disability Support Alliance" would be behind it. But the DSA isn't about improving access. It's about making money. Eric Wong, a member of the four-person-strong DSA says companies just need to pay it first and worry about complying with the law later.
His group “is currently in the process of producing a voluntary mass settlement agreement for those businesses in Marshall that are ready to confess to their crime, fully comply … and pay the damages/restitution that they are liable for under the law,” Wong said in an e-mail.

“The lawsuits will stop when there is no more access crime to prosecute,” he said. Many businesses “fail to understand that … we are now a zero tolerance state.”
Roughly translated: the trolling will continue until it's run off the rails by the public or the courts. The lawsuits have already caught the eye of Hennepin County's chief judge, which noted that the flurry of filings "raised the specter of serial litigation" and has ordered all DSA/Hansmeier's lawsuits filed in this county be handled by one judge. This will probably prompt Hansmeier to take his "business" elsewhere, rather than deal with extra scrutiny from a judge who won't have to connect the dots between multiple filings in multiple venues. With any luck, Hansmeier's efforts elsewhere will be greeted with the same local resistance and judicial distrust.


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  • icon
    S. T. Stone (profile), 20 May 2015 @ 3:06pm

    How dumb can one man get?

    …wait, is calling someone “dumb” a violation of the ADA? I don’t want to get sued.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Zauber Paracelsus (profile), 20 May 2015 @ 3:13pm

    Doesn't he know that the easy way is always mined?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Randy Torrenter, 20 May 2015 @ 3:25pm

    What a username!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2015 @ 3:45pm

    Does the "Disability Support Alliance" fully comply with the ADA?
    Since the business is imaginary, I'd guess there are no rails or ramps.
    I wasn't able to find a website to determine if the visually impaired could access it.
    Maybe I need to bring a lawsuit against the DSA so they can make the necessary changes in order to allow those with disabilities access to their services.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 20 May 2015 @ 3:49pm

      Re:

      Given who's involve with them, I'm pretty sure they're already set up to handle the ethically challenged at least, so that's one disability they are able to serve.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 May 2015 @ 6:26am

      Re: Disability Support

      What you're actually looking for is the site:

      http://www.classjustice.org

      Their compliance with WCAG 2.0 AA on the contact page fails for some elements due to inadequate text/background contrast and text resizing issues (uses non-relative unit sizes).

      Not perfect - not awful...unless you're into "zero tolerance."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    madasahatter (profile), 20 May 2015 @ 4:36pm

    The problem is with this is the disable almost always get the shaft. Part of the problem is the disable are disparate group with all sorts of medical issues. So there is often a fix for one group that could cause problems for others.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2015 @ 4:54pm

    Why isn't Paul Hansmeier disbarred --and behind bars-- yet?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    One More Anonymous, 20 May 2015 @ 4:55pm

    Limping Away?

    "Most are still in the process of extracting themselves from the flaming wreckage of Prenda, but they're limping away, rather than strutting."

    John Steele gave early interviews indicating gross income from Prenda extortions of about $15M. Some shake-down letters asked for payment in the form of money orders or other difficult-to-trace methods. They knew they were on thin ice, and kept records as inaccessible as possible, and moved as much as possible into foreign shells.

    Hansmeier liked the results well enough to want to try to re-create them without having to work on developing socially-beneficial skills.

    Unless they pay more than a few penalties, this doesn't seem like "limping away".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2015 @ 5:22pm

    We can only hope that one the truly disabled will take um-bridge at being used as a Patsy and bring a new enlightened understanding of disability to Hansmeier. God knows he is begging for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2015 @ 5:40pm

    LOL! Bawk bawk bawk, Mikey!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 20 May 2015 @ 5:58pm

      Re:

      Really now, how many times do I have to say it, if you want to pretend to be a farmer and/or livestock(chicken in this case apparently), Farmville is hosted on Facebook, not TD.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 May 2015 @ 4:34am

      Re:

      Yes, we know you love copyright abuse and extortion as much as you love "farmasutra".

      There's no need to repeat it all the time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 May 2015 @ 6:00am

    Looks like Steele is getting into the act as well.
    A quote from an article at the Star Tribune.

    Meanwhile, Hansmeier’s former law partner from Prenda Law, John Steele, recently started a new practice in Illinois. It’s called “Accessibility Law Group.” He filed his first ADA suit April 30.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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