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Disabilities lawyer Paul Hansmeier’s got the law by its balls

Hardworking lawyer Paul Hansmeier has bills to pay. If you're a small business owner, better make sure your disability accommodations are up to date ASAP.

Hardworking lawyer Paul Hansmeier has bills to pay. If you're a small business owner, better make sure your disability accommodations are up to date ASAP.

Or is it the other way around?

This summer Minneapolis attorney Paul Hansmeier caught our eye when he sued a bunch of small businesses for not being up to date on their wheelchair ramps. Claiming to be a champion of disability rights, Hansmeier nevertheless raised eyebrows among longtime advocates when he seemed more interested in settling for cash than making sure that renovations were made.

How it worked: A disabled client of Hansmeier’s – and these were recurring guys – would first try to get service from some mom-and-pop shop. That client would find something wrong, such as the tables not being low enough, and Hansmeier would send the business a heads-up on an impending legal onslaught if they didn't make immediate changes. Restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, and art galleries throughout the Twin Cities, Marshall, Mankato, and Rochester have chosen to settle for cash rather than fight, often at the expense of having anything left over to improve disability access.

It was all perfectly legal.

Now WCCO reports that Hansmeier has filed for bankruptcy.

We know Hansmeier’s legendary career with Chicago's Prenda Law left him in hard straits. A copyright infringement firm that made millions by suing poor pervs for downloading online porn, Prenda would create production companies and accuse random dudes of piracy in hopes that a) they’d downloaded videos and b) have enough shame to settle quietly. A federal district court called Hansmeier and his partners porno trolls and imposed a fine of about $63,000. That’s been paid.

But then there were damages from individual lawsuits filed by folks who fell victim to the scheme. Hansmeier owes hundreds of thousands that he has yet to fork over. His bankruptcy filings indicate assets of $1.1 million, liabilities of more than $700,000. Under Hansmeier’s repayment plan, he’ll repay $142,570 over 53 months. A judge will review that repayment plan in bankruptcy court on October 15.