Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument on ADA Hotel Website Tester Case
By PVA National Staff
On October 4, the U.S. Supreme Court held an oral argument on Acheson Hotels, LLC v. Laufer. Deborah Laufer, a mobility assistive device user and self-deemed “tester,” regularly visits hotel websites checking whether they have information on the physical accessibility of the hotel.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) reservation rule, hotels must identify and describe the accessibility features of the hotel and guest rooms in enough detail for a guest to decide if the hotel will meet their needs. When Laufer visited the hotel’s website, she found no accessibility information and sued, though she had no plans to reserve a room at the hotel. The district court dismissed the case, but the circuit court ruled in her favor. Acheson Hotels then filed a petition to the Supreme Court to review the case.
PVA joined a brief to the Court, with 17 other disability rights organizations, to explain the importance of lawsuits as a means to enforce the ADA.
The initial question before the Court was whether a “tester” can bring a lawsuit for a hotel’s failure to provide accessibility information on their website. However, due to developments in the case, the Court added a consideration of whether the case was moot.
A case is moot when there is no longer an actual controversy and the parties have no interest in the outcome. Since the case was initially filed, the hotel owner sold the hotel and the hotel’s website was updated. After the Court granted the petition for review, Laufer dismissed her case before the district court, which nulled the circuit court’s decision. Both parties and the Solicitor General agreed that the case is moot. However, Acheson Hotels argued the Court should still issue an opinion for future cases.
The Court’s opinion on tester standing for hotel website compliance, or website ADA compliance in general, could have a major impact on a person with a disability’s right to file an ADA case in court. However, during the oral argument, several of the justices deemed the case to be “dead.” The Court has the option to rule the case as moot and not issue an opinion.