Search Results for ‘hansmeier web’

From mass copyright complaints to web accessibility: one lawyer’s journey

Fifteen years ago, I wrote the following, to considerable skepticism from some ADA advocates, about the idea that online publishers should be legally obliged to make their websites “accessible” to blind, deaf, and other disabled users:

If it’s easy for entrepreneurial litigators to stroll down the main street of a town and find stores vulnerable to an ADA suit because their water fountain or pay phone is at the wrong height, it’s even easier for them to surf the Web and find sites that flunk the most widely accepted disability guidelines. Assuming a court can be found with proper jurisdiction over them, the next logical step is the filing of accessibility complaints by the cartload.

Federal courts were cool toward the idea of obligatory web accessibility, but more recently it has been stirring back to life, in part owing to an Obama administration move to revitalize the idea. And while it’s taken me a while to catch up with the story, it appears that at least one practicing lawyer has indeed spotted a niche for the mass filing of ADA suits against small businesses over their online presence.

That lawyer is Minneapolis-based attorney Paul Hansmeier, who fittingly or otherwise was previously associated with the now-disgraced Prenda Law Group, which engaged in mass copyright complaint filing against computer users recorded as downloading certain X-rated materials. Mike Masnick at TechDirt followed the adventures of Hansmeier and his Class Justice in multiple web-accessibility filing in this 2013 post with sequel and even more entertaining followup (channeling Dan Nienaber, Mankato, Minn., Free Press). Now Tim Cushing at TechDirt reports that Hansmeier is running into a bit of resistance in the form of a counterclaim by one of his targets, Kahler Hotels.

January 4 roundup

December 28 roundup

Disabled rights roundup

  • As filing mills, web accessibility concepts go nationwide and appeals court green-lights use of “testers”: “Disability Lawsuits Against Small Businesses Soar” [Angus Loten, Wall Street Journal]
  • More on legal imperilment of universities’ free online course offerings [George Leef and thanks for quote, earlier here, here]
  • Bill filed by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) would provide for “notice and cure” of some ADA violations [East Valley Tribune]
  • Supreme Court’s CRST decision might open door for defendants to recover legal fees in more ADA cases that did not result in merits ruling [William Goren, earlier on CRST]
  • Prenda Law founder loses law license, won’t be filing access suits for a while [Mike Masnick, earlier]
  • Jury backs Austin, Tex. police officer with narcolepsy [Austin American-Statesman, h/t Mark Pulliam]

Minnesota bill would curb ADA frequent filer

Attorney Paul Hansmeier has sued more than 100 small businesses in Minnesota charging lack of handicap accessibility, sometimes “on behalf of the Disability Support Alliance, a nonprofit group that finds non-compliant businesses. A 5 Eyewitness News report from last summer found Hansmeier sought quick settlements from businesses for thousands of dollars and made little effort to ensure the buildings were brought into compliance.” Hansmeier has now denounced as “silly” a bill developed by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, working with the Minnesota State Council of Disability and Human Rights Department, aimed at curbing opportunistic accessibility complaints. “The legislation would give businesses at least 30 days to respond to lawsuits, shift the burden of proof in some cases to those filing the lawsuit and restrict attorneys from demanding immediate settlements.”

Attorney Hansmeier, according to the broadcast report, “is currently facing disbarment or suspension for running a copyright infringement scheme involving a pornographic video. A district judge in Hennepin County said last year that Hansmeier’s history reinforced concerns that the ADA lawsuits raised ‘the specter of litigation abuse.'” [KSTP] Last year I noted his adventures in copyright law and his more recent rolling out of multiple suits alleging that businesses had not adequately designed their online presence to accommodate disabled web users.