Morrison Mahoney partner Grace Garcia was recently quoted in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly regarding the issue of whether an “ADA tester-plaintiff” had standing to sue for a hotel reservation website’s alleged non-compliance with federal regulations governing accessibility for the disabled, even if she had no plans to actually book a room at the hotel.
Plaintiff claimed the hotel’s website didn’t identify accessible rooms, provide an option for booking accessible rooms, or provide sufficient information for her to determine whether rooms and other features of the hotel met her special needs. The plaintiff is disabled with limited mobility and identifies herself as an ADA “tester” and advocate for the disabled. According to the plaintiff, she faced the same problem when she visited the inn’s reservation service through third-party websites, including Expedia.com, Hotels.com, and Booking.com. The defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff lacked standing to bring her suit because she never intended to book a room when she visited the hotel’s website. The U.S. District Court agreed with the defendant and dismissed the case, but the First Circuit reversed, finding that a “tester-plaintiff” did have Article III standing to sue, even if the plaintiff had no intention of making a reservation at the hotel.
Garcia said her “concern is that often testers target smaller hotels and businesses. For most of my clients when faced with similar situations, when given notice — a call or letter telling them that someone can’t get on their website — they want to change it because it’s to their benefit.” According to Garcia, the problem is the ADA’s lack of a notice requirement, and the fact that the costs and attorneys’ fees that plaintiffs demand to settle their lawsuits can put some defendants out of business. “In terms of hotel reservations and restaurants, I’ve yet to see a case of intentional misinformation or an unwillingness to ensure [the availability of] the correct information so that those with disabilities can have full and equal access,” she said.
To read the full article, click here [subscription].