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A federal appeals court on Wednesday reinstated a discrimination lawsuit filed by a self-proclaimed “tester,” who has filed hundreds of comparable lawsuits, who charges an inn with failing to provide information about its accessibility to those with disabilities on its reservation portal and elsewhere, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston on Wednesday overturned a Portland, Maine, U.S. District Court’s dismissal of Deborah Laufer v. Acheson Hotels LLC and said Ms. Laufer had suffered “a concrete and particularized injury” giving her standing to file the suit under the ADA, even if she allegedly did not intend to visit The Coast Village Inn and Cottages in Wells, Maine.
The ruling contradicts similar decisions against Ms. Laufer including one recently issued by a federal appeals court in New York. However, in April the federal appeals court in Atlanta also reinstated a comparable lawsuit filed by Ms. Laufer.
Ms. Laufer, who is disabled, charged that Acheson did not identify accessible rooms, provide an option for booking such a room, nor provide sufficient information to determine whether the rooms and inn’s features were accessible, either on its own website, or on other travel-related websites, in violation of the ADA.
“Does Laufer’s self-admitted status as a tester – that she had no intent to do anything but test the website’s ADA compliance – mean she hasn’t suffered an injury?” the ruling asked.
In concluding she had suffered such an injury, the ruling cited a 1982 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman that ruled in favor of a black tester who was seeking to determine whether apartment property owners violated discrimination law.
“Havens Realty appears right on the nose for Laufer’s case – both to her status as tester and the injury she suffered,” a three-judge appeals court panel said.
“We can’t overrule prior Supreme Court cases – that much the Court has made clear,” the decision said, adding “we respectfully disagree” with other federal appeals court cases that have ruled differently on the issue.
The case was remanded for further proceedings.
Acheson Hotels attorney Sally A. Morris, of the Law Office of Sally Morris in Portland, Maine, said in a statement, “We are, with due respect to the court, disappointed in the outcome. We believe that the District Court in Maine, and the four other Circuit Courts of Appeals who reached an alternative result got it right. We are weighing options moving forward.”
Ms. Laufer’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.