Porn Troll Becomes ADA Website Troll, Sans Clients' Consent - Technologist
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Porn Troll Becomes ADA Website Troll, Sans Clients' Consent

Career change, or new shady scheme?

The last time we blogged about Prenda Law, they were ordered to pay $81,319.72 in defense attorneys' fees after they sent threatening demand letters (and filed frivolous boilerplate lawsuits) regarding porn copyright infringement. The letters were more extortion than legitimate litigation, threatening to reveal the recipient's porn proclivities to neighbors and relatives unless the recipient settled.

Prenda Law is all but dead after sanctions and criminal investigations. But according to TechDirt, one of the troll-firm's masterminds has now set his sights elsewhere: ADA access for the blind to websites.

ADA Requires Website Accessibility?

TechDirt broke the story earlier this month, reporting that Paul Hansmeier, a former Prenda principal, had filed a pair of ADA accessibility lawsuits. In one, he claimed that a local mom-and-pop dentist's office was required by the ADA to have a blind-accessible website. In another, he alleged that a local sporting goods store was not ADA compliant, even though there was a wheelchair-accessible entrance in the back, and the bathroom was for employees only.

According to Ars Technica, that list of defendants is even longer, and includes Bancwest Investment Services, Life Wellness Center, Healtheast Care Systems, and Eagle Lake Family Dentistry, plus the brick-and-mortar defendant, Wally's Sports and Clothing.

Does the ADA require companies to have blind-accessible websites? The issue hasn't been decided definitively by the courts, but the Wall Street Journal has reported that both Netflix and Target settled similar lawsuits after unfavorable court rulings.

The merits of the claim are certainly an interesting question, but here's an even better one: does he even actually represent these people?

Consenting Clients?

A local paper, the Mankato Free Press, tracked down one of the plaintiffs, Lily Poss, a visually impaired woman who was initially hired as a website tester in order to provide information that would educate businesses. Poss had no idea that any lawsuits had been filed in her name, though she was aware that lawsuits were contemplated should businesses refuse to comply.

"It's something I want to be legitimate," she told the Free Press. "I do believe larger businesses should be targeted, not small businesses. I don't go to Eagle Lake for anything and I wouldn't have gone to the website if it wasn't on the list."

One of the other plaintiffs, Flint Million, is a friend recruited by Poss; her cousin, Allan Mooney, who recruited her to join the cause, has past links to the Prenda copyright trolling effort, reports Ars Technica.

Hansmeier's Response

Hansmeier told the Free Press that he sold his stake in Prenda before the trolling cases commenced, and that frivolous lawsuits should not be expected from his new venture.

"We consider ourselves to be an advocacy association more than we consider ourselves a law firm," he said. "With the porn reputation, I wanted to shift my focus and focus on something more positive. We're really focused on doing it right so anyone who hears about us says, 'Yeah. This is the right way to go about it.'"

Legitimate complaint? Born-again advocate? Or terrible troll? Tweet your thoughts to @FindLawLP.

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