Supreme Court takes up case concerning Americans with Disabilities Act ‘tester’ of hotels
By Devan Cole, CNN
The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case concerning whether a self-appointed “tester” of the Americans with Disabilities Act has the right to sue hotels over alleged violations of the civil rights law.
The court was asked to take the case by Acheson Hotels, which owns and operates a hotel in coastal Maine. The company was sued by Deborah Laufer, who they say has filed hundreds of lawsuits against hotels across the country, claiming their websites are not in compliance with ADA rules that require hotels to disclosure information about how accessible they are to individuals with disabilities.
Though Laufer doesn’t intend to visit the hotels she’s suing, the lawsuits are brought in an effort to force the hotels to update their websites to be in compliance with the law.
A district court dismissed Laufer’s suit against Acheson Hotels, ruling she lacked the procedural threshold — known as standing — needed to bring the suit. But an appeals court later ruled in her favor.
Now, the justices will decide next term whether she has the right to act as a “tester” toward hotels she doesn’t intend to visit.
“Laufer is one of numerous ‘testers’ who have collectively brought thousands of lawsuits under the ADA. A cottage industry has arisen in which uninjured plaintiffs lob ADA lawsuits of questionable merit, while using the threat of attorney’s fees to extract settlement payments,” the hotel told the justices in court papers. “These lawsuits have burdened small businesses, clogged the judicial system, and undermined the Executive Branch’s exclusive authority to enforce federal law.”
The hotel run by Acheson Hotels has a notice posted to its website that says, “Please Note: Unfortunately, we do not have the capabilities to provide pet-friendly or ADA compliant lodging. We apologize for the inconvenience!”
Laufer had urged the justices to take the case, with her attorneys arguing in court papers that they should affirm the appeals court ruling.
“Without civil rights advocates such as this plaintiff, there would be no enforcement of the ADA,” they wrote in part.
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