Patrick Michenfelder, lawyer in St. Michael, is leaving the federal court. (FOX 9)
(FOX 9) – – An attorney behind 270 lawsuits under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) has been publicly reprimanded by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Patrick Michenfelder, a St. Michael attorney, was the subject of a FOX 9 investigation into frivolous lawsuits against small businesses under the ADA on behalf of the Midwest Disability Initiative (MDI).
From 2016 to August 2018, Michenfelder initiated over 270 ADA cases on behalf of MDI and recovered $ 411,500 in settlements.
MDI uses “testers” to visit, patronize, and test companies to see if they have any barriers preventing entry. MDI was originally a not-for-profit organization but was converted into a for-profit company in February 2016.
MDI’s testers included Jerald Boitnott, who had been in prison for 24 years for first degree murder.
For each successful lawsuit, MDI and the individual plaintiff would each receive $ 750. A settlement over 5,000 USD should be split equally between MDI, the customer and Michenfelder.
Under the order of the Minnesota Supreme Court, Michenfelder has contingent fee agreements that are not signed by customers and that do not include percentages. He has also deposited money from settlements into an operating account rather than an escrow account.
Under the ADA, the only remedy to a litigation is to prevent the business owner from operating until it meets the requirements and to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees. In contrast to other legal disputes, under the ADA there is no damage that a lawyer reimburses for the client and receives a percentage.
Michenfelder was publicly reprimanded and has to pay $ 900.
“The punishment is a joke,” said Rob Dubnecay of the Chicago Taste Authority, one of dozen companies on West 7th Street in St. Paul that were sued by (MDI).
In an email to FOX 9, Michenfelder said that there was no improper fee sharing or that the cases themselves were unfounded.
William Wernz, a lawyer representing Michenfelder, said in an email to FOX 9 that “no one who has ever been represented by Mr. Michenfelder has ever settled an ADA case for cash only.”
Wernz claims from ADA attorney fees will be awarded to the plaintiff, and it is reasonable for plaintiffs to share attorney fees.
For his part, Michenfelder appears unafraid of the Minnesota Supreme Court reprimand.
“I am still proud of the people I represent and look forward to continuing to do so,” said Michenfelder.