Supreme Court To Weigh ADA Protections

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

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider a case that could dramatically alter the rights of people with disabilities to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The high court will hear oral arguments next week in a case known as Acheson Hotels, LLC v. Laufer. The question is whether people with disabilities can sue a business under the ADA if they do not actually intend to visit it.

The case was brought by Deborah Laufer, a visually impaired Florida resident who uses a cane or wheelchair. She sued Acheson Hotels alleging that the website for Coast Village Inn and Cottages in Wells, Maine, did not include adequate information about handicap accommodations as required by the ADA.

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Laufer is considered a “tester,” or someone who actively looks for ADA violations to pursue legal action. He has filed more than 600 federal lawsuits since 2018 with allegations against hotel owners and operators similar to those he filed in his case against Acheson Hotels.

In the case at hand, a lower court dismissed the matter, finding that Laufer was not injured because she had no plans to visit the hotel. But that 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 citizenship” were “’after-effects’ and ‘adverse effects’ of the informational harm he caused.” she experienced. “

The case comes as more and more serial testers have emerged in recent years and lower courts have disagreed over whether or not they have standing to sue. Business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the Center for Retail Litigation have lined up behind Acheson Hotels, arguing that reviewers are simply taking advantage of small businesses.

However, disability advocates say evaluators provide an invaluable service by ensuring businesses meet their ADA obligations.

“By accelerating the pace of compliance, evaluators bring the unfulfilled promise of the ADA closer to fulfillment,” said Michelle Uzeta, deputy legal director of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, one of 18 advocacy organizations. people with disabilities who filed a “friend of the court” brief supporting Laufer. “People with disabilities face barriers and discriminatory policies every day, multiple times a day, 33 years after the enactment of the ADA. If Individuals with the fortitude to shoulder the burden of law enforcement as evaluators are stripped of their position in the future, the result will undoubtedly be reduced private law enforcement, frustration of legal objectives, and continued exclusion of people with disabilities from community life.

Oral arguments are expected to be presented before the Supreme Court next Wednesday. However, there is still a chance that the case could be dismissed.

Laufer dropped her lawsuits against Acheson Hotels in July after a federal court in Maryland sanctioned an attorney who represented her in other cases. At the time, she asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the case as moot. The judges refused, but said they would consider the issue further when the case is heard.

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