New Supreme Court Case

Acheson Hotels, LLC v. Laufer

U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear a case involving the Americans with Disabilities Act in the case of Acheson Hotels, LLC v. Laufer. There is interest in this case as it might resolve the question of whether individuals who serve as “tester” plaintiffs have standing to bring suits forwards. The allegations are that the hotel failed to adequately describe the accessibility of the it’s services on its reservation websites, as required by Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

As is the case with many Supreme Court cases, the circuits are split on this. The Second, Fifth, and Tenth Circuits have ruled that an individual must actually demonstrate their intention to use or patronize the hotel in order to establish standing. The First, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits have allowed the “tester” to have standing to sue.

The obligations of the hotel under Title III of the ADA require hotels are to identify and describe the accessibility of a hotel and guest rooms offered through its reservation services “in enough detail to reasonably permit individuals with disabilities to assess independently whether a given hotel or guest room meets his or her accessibility needs” 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(e)(1)(ii).

The dispute lies not with the obligation of the ADA and the requirements of hotels, but whether Deborah Laufer, a Florida resident who has a vision impairment and uses a cane or wheelchair, has standing to sue. Laufer is a self-proclaimed “tester” who seeks out and files lawsuits against businesses that are potentially in violation of the ADA. 

In this case, the district court in Maine initially dismissed the lawsuit against Acheson Hotels, concluding that Laufer could not be injured by the absence of information on a website for a hotel she never planned to visit. But, in October of last year, the First Circuit reversed, holding Laufer suffered a concrete injury in the form of alleged frustration and humiliation by not being able to obtain adequate information about whether she could take advantage of the hotel’s accommodations.

Litigation under Title III of the ADA has more than 10,000 cases filed annually. California, New York and Florida account for more than half of the filings.

Businesses argue these “testers” who have no intention of using or purchasing the goods or services they offer, cause significant legal costs and waste valuable company time.

Laufer’s attorney stated “testers” provide a valuable public service for a law that shows businesses are out of compliance over 30 years after implementation. 

A previous case heard by the Supreme Court in 1982, Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, held that a Black “tester” plaintiff had standing to bring a Fair Housing Act claim, even though she had no intention of renting an apartment.

The Court is expected to hear oral argument in the fall, with a decision likely to follow in 2024.

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