Appeals Court Ruling in ADA Case Creates More Confusion Over Article III Standing

In a case that was first highlighted by Manny Newburger of Barron & Newburger, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has reversed a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit against a hotel for allegedly not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act because its website was not compliant with the law. The Appeals Court ruled the plaintiff had standing to sue, reversing the lower court’s ruling, even though the plaintiff — a self-proclaimed ADA tester who has filed hundreds of lawsuits across the country — had no intention to book a hotel through the website. This ruling further “muddies” the waters regarding to standing and where the threshold is for suffering a concrete injury, Newburger notes.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Laufer v. Acheson Hotels can be accessed by clicking here.

Background: The plaintiff visited the defendant’s website and noted that it did not identify handicap-accessible rooms, did not provide an option for booking an accessible room, and did not have sufficient information about whether rooms and features of the hotel were accessible. The plaintiff checked 13 third-party booking sites and found the same lack of information on each.

  • The plaintiff filed suit, accusing the defendant of violating the ADA. Because the plaintiff had no plans to actually book a room, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing the plaintiff lacked standing to sue. A District Court judge agreed and granted the motion.

Not So Fast: Denying information to an individual who is statutorily entitled to have it “can make for a concrete injury in fact,” the Appeals Court ruled, looking at a handful of rulings from the Supreme Court. The individual’s “intended use of the information is not relevant.”

  • The defendant tried to use the Supreme Court’s ruling in TransUnion v. Ramirez to argue that some of the cases being relied upon by the Appeals Court in reaching its decision would not survive under TransUnion. But unless the Supreme Court says TransUnion overrules earlier rulings, the Appeals Court is not allowed to do so, it admitted.

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