ADA Case Set To Go Before Supreme Court

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The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the case Acheson Hotels, LLC v. Laufer. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

The U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in on the rights of people with disabilities to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The high court said this week that it would take up a case known as Acheson Hotels, LLC v. Laufer. At issue is whether individuals with disabilities have standing to sue a business under the ADA if they have no intention of actually visiting the establishment.

The case originated when Deborah Laufer, a Florida resident who has a vision impairment and uses a cane or wheelchair, sued Acheson Hotels alleging that the website of the Coast Village Inn and Cottages in Wells, Maine did not offer adequate information about accommodations for people with disabilities as required under the ADA.

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A district court dismissed Laufer’s suit, finding that she was not injured since she never planned to visit the hotel, but the decision was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit which found that “Laufer’s feelings of frustration, humiliation and second-class citizenry” were “‘downstream consequences’ and ‘adverse effects’ of the informational injury she experienced.”

Acheson Hotels then appealed to the Supreme Court. In its petition to the high court, the company noted that Laufer has filed over 600 federal lawsuits since 2018 against hotel owners and operators making similar allegations.

Lower courts have differed on whether self-appointed ADA “testers” like Laufer have standing to sue, according to the petition. And, lawyers for Acheson Hotels argued that the case “has immense practical importance” given that Laufer is one of many such “testers” who have filed thousands of ADA lawsuits.

“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. These lawsuits have burdened small businesses, clogged the judicial system and undermined the executive branch’s exclusive authority to enforce federal law,” the petition states.

In response, Laufer’s attorney agreed in court papers that the Supreme Court should review the matter given the differing opinions from lower courts. But, Laufer argued that she and other “testers” serve an important public good in the face of countless businesses who remain out of compliance with the ADA more than 30 years after it took effect.

“Without civil rights advocates such as this plaintiff, there would be no enforcement of the ADA,” the brief said.

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