By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
In 1992 Boulder physician Mary Maxwell sued Shortridge for $343 in medical care she said he had received but not paid for. "Even though Medicare paid him for my services, he has only made three $25 payments to me," Maxwell said in her complaint. Maxwell eventually attempted to garnishee Shortridge's bank account, but Shortridge filed papers in court claiming the $195 he had in the bank was exempt from garnishment because it all came from his Social Security Disability checks.
And late last month, Bank One in Boulder had to go to court to reinstate an unpaid judgment against Shortridge that dated back to 1986.
Shortridge, according to court papers, had run up a $4,900 debt on a line of credit with the bank but had never paid it back. The bank ran into difficulty collecting from the start: Neither a bank officer nor a private detective was able to find Shortridge to serve him papers related to the lawsuit. The bank officer thought he located Shortridge walking around Nederland--an employee at the local post office pointed him out as he passed by--but Shortridge disappeared into a doorway, according to court papers. When the officer knocked on the door, the person who answered denied knowing Shortridge and insisted he wasn't there.
Shortridge later countersued the bank for $150,000, alleging contract fraud, misrepresentation, defamation and "fraudulent collection practices." A judge dismissed that claim and ordered Shortridge to pay the bank more than $8,000, which included interest and court costs as well as $2.44 for every day the debt remained unpaid.
This September, the bank's attorney, William Ahlstrand, was back in Boulder District Court seeking to "revive" the judgment against Shortridge--a procedural move that must be undertaken every six years while the debt remains unpaid. "He claims he doesn't have any money," Ahlstrand says. The attorney declines further comment.
Shortridge says the judgments against him were the result of a financial reversal that occurred after he lost his sight. He says he quit working, made a series of bad investments and wound up deep in debt. He says he's strived to repay his creditors and claims today that he has wiped the slate nearly clean. "My creditors are happy with my approach to repayment," he says. "Just about everything has been repaid."
Boulder Creek divides the town of Nederland in half, and the only way, back in 1984, to get from one side to the other was to walk across a small bridge that served both pedestrians and automobiles. On October 1 of that year, David Shortridge was walking south across the bridge when he met a car coming in the other direction. Shortridge stepped out of the way to avoid being hit--and tumbled ten feet into the creek bed.
Shortridge sued the state Department of Transportation, claiming he'd suffered "serious and extremely painful injuries." The state was responsible, he claimed, because it had neglected to put guardrails on the bridge to prevent people from falling off.
The case was eventually settled out of court. But it was far from the only claim filed by David Shortridge over the last several years. Shortridge has sued other parties at least seven times, alleging everything from assault to libel to intentional infliction of emotional distress.
"You can say I'm litigious," Shortridge says. But he adds that there's nothing wrong with seeking judicial redress. "If you cannot solve your problems with mediation and arbitration, then you have a right to take your grievance to the court," he says.
One of Shortridge's targets, however, has accused Shortridge of deliberately "setting people up" for lawsuits in order to make a living. Richard J. Humpal, a former Boulder police officer whom Shortridge sued for assault in 1980, alleged in court papers that Shortridge "has a history of filing suits to gain money."
At the time of the suit, Shortridge was living in a Boulder mobile-home park owned by Humpal's mother, Irene, and, according to court papers, was four months behind in his rent. On April 9, 1980, Richard Humpal went to Shortridge's trailer to ask him when he intended to make payment. Shortridge let Humpal in, but as soon as he stepped over the threshold, Humpal claimed in court papers, he heard a woman inside the trailer screaming into the phone to a police dispatcher that she and Shortridge were being attacked by an intruder. Humpal said he went to the phone, told the dispatcher that nothing was happening and then left to find his mother. Shortridge, meanwhile, "was waving a stick around and acting like he was crazy."
Shortridge sued Humpal for $170,000, claiming that Humpal had pushed him down as he came into the trailer. Shortridge alleged that, because of Humpal, he had suffered "loss of consciousness, emergency medical treatment, impairment of mood, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of dignity, mental anguish and humiliation." A judge eventually dismissed the claim and ordered Shortridge to pay Irene Humpal the rent he owed. "He's an absolute nightmare," says Humpal, now an attorney in California. "He's very intelligent, and he knows exactly what he's doing. That's what's so scary about him."
Shortridge dismisses Humpal's claim that he was "set up," saying the accusation shouldn't be taken seriously. And he says there's no reason his penchant for suits ought to bother the voters. Why, he asks, should he be punished merely for exercising his constitutional right? "I'm no different than any other citizen," Shortridge says.