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Third federal appeals court reinstates suit by ADA ‘tester’


The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, on Wednesday became the third federal appeals court to reinstate a lawsuit filed against a hotel by a self-professed “tester” who has filed hundreds of similar lawsuits throughout the country under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Three other appeals courts, however, have ruled against this case’s plaintiff and another plaintiff in similar cases that were also filed under Title III, which prohibits discrimination based on disability in places of public accommodation.

Deborah Laufer, who often relies on a wheelchair, had filed suit against Cumming, Georgia-based Noranda Hotels LLC, as the owner of the Sleep Inn & Suites Downtown Inner Harbor in Baltimore, contending it had violated the ADA’s hotel reservation regulation on six websites by not allowing for the reservation of accessible guess rooms, or providing sufficient accessibility information, according to the ruling in Deborah Laufer v. Naranda Hotels LLC.

Ms. Laufer had filed suit against the hotel in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, which dismissed the case on the basis that “Laufer’s alleged travel plans were too indefinite to establish standing, but also that Laufer lacked credibility,” said the appeals court ruling said.

A three-judge panel held, however, that “Laufer’s allegation of an information injury accords her Article III standing to sue Naranda -whether or not she ever had a definite and credible plan to travel to the Baltimore area.”

The ruling notes that in similar cases the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta and the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston have ruled in Ms. Laufer’s favor. In both of these cases, she had admitted she had no intention or need to book rooms at the defendants’ hotels, the ruling said.

However, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal in New York ruled against another plaintiff in a similar case, and both the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver have ruled against Ms. Laufer.

“We recognize that our decision today appears to even the split among the courts of appeals at 3-3,” the ruling said. “We are confident that, as explained herein, the applicable precedents best support our position.”

Plaintiff attorney Thomas B. Bacon, of Thomas B. Bacon PA in Orlando, Florida, said, the ruling is a positive step for disabled people as well as for those protected under civil rights statutes.

He said also the 1st Circuit ruling, in which he also represented Ms. Laufer, is now being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and he is fairly certain it will accept the case.

The defense attorney did not respond to a request for comment.