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Disgraced lawyer targeting Rochester businesses with disability lawsuits

Disgraced lawyer targeting Rochester businesses with disability lawsuits

The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce is warning businesses about a recent spike in lawsuits against local businesses for potential violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The lawsuits have been initiated by a small group of disabled individuals in connection with the Disability Support Alliance, an organization represented by Minneapolis attorney Paul Hansmeier.

The DSA has already filed suits against dozens of businesses in Minnesota, and now appears to be targeting businesses in the Rochester area, says an email sent out this week by the chamber.


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Based on court documents, the individuals involved are visiting local businesses and intentionally looking for physical features that prevent them from fully utilizing the business's services. 

According to the law firm of Dunlap & Seeger, which is consulting the chamber, the barriers have almost exclusively been located on the outside of businesses, "particularly the parking lots and building access ramps." 

The ADA regulates nearly every part of a building or facility that is intended for use by the general public, from bathrooms to light switches. The purpose of the law is to give individuals with disabilities equal access to public facilities.

However, critics say DSA’s lawsuits are about winning cash settlements, not making businesses more handicap accessible. Here's an excerpt from a December 2014 article by the Star tribune: 

If the tactic sounds familiar it’s because the same lawyer, Paul Hansmeier, has been sanctioned by federal judges around the country for a similar strategy — trying to extract cash settlements from men who allegedly downloaded copyrighted pornography on the Internet. In those cases, Hansmeier and some associates have been ordered to pay more than $440,000 in sanctions, with one federal judge accusing them of “a form of moral turpitude unbecoming of an officer of the court.”

He is also under investigation by the Minnesota Attorney General's Office for ethical violations. Click here for additional reading on Hansmeier.

Disclosure: The Med City Beat has been a member of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce since 2014.


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