SCOTUS Dodges Addressing Disabilities Rights Case

In a recent development at the Supreme Court, a disability rights activist’s lawsuit against hotels for not disclosing accessibility information has been dropped, rendering the case moot. This decision has raised concerns about the potential impact on the ability of “testers” to bring lawsuits that benefit the disabled community by ensuring compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The lawsuit, filed by Deborah Laufer, a prominent disability rights campaigner, had the potential to shape the legal landscape surrounding accessibility in public accommodations. Specifically, Laufer’s case focused on the obligation of hotels to disclose accessibility information. Acheson Hotels, which operated the Coast Village Inn and Cottages in Maine, had challenged Laufer’s legal standing to bring the case forward, arguing that she had no intention of staying at the hotel and had failed to demonstrate any injury suffered due to the alleged discrimination.
However, before the Supreme Court could rule, Laufer decided to drop her lawsuit. This decision has left the legal community wondering about the implications for future cases and the ability of disability rights advocates to hold hotels accountable for ADA compliance.

Interestingly, the hotel in question, Coast Village Inn and Cottages, took action during the lower court proceedings by posting the accessibility information initially subject to dispute. This move raises questions about the hotel’s motivations and whether it was an attempt to avoid an unfavorable ruling.

The Supreme Court justices, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who authored the court’s opinion, chose not to address the core issue despite concerns raised by Acheson Hotels. Justice Barrett acknowledged Acheson’s concerns about potentially manipulating the court’s jurisdiction, but the court was not convinced that Laufer had dropped her case to evade their review.
This decision leaves uncertainty surrounding the legal standing of disability rights activists to act as “testers” and bring lawsuits against hotels for ADA non-compliance. The outcome of this case has significant implications for the disabled community, as it could have helped establish more precise guidelines for hotels and other public accommodations regarding accessibility information disclosure.

While the specific details of Laufer’s case may no longer be relevant, the broader issue of accessibility and discrimination against individuals with disabilities remains an ongoing concern that requires attention and action.