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High court to rule in discrimination 'tester' case

High court to rule in discrimination 'tester' case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case where a self-proclaimed “tester” of discrimination law sued an inn for failing to provide information about its accessibility, even though she allegedly had no intention of visiting the property.

In the case accepted for review, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston in October overturned a Portland, Maine, U.S. District Court’s dismissal of Deborah Laufer v. Acheson Hotels LLC. The appeals court ruled that Ms. Laufer had suffered “a concrete and particularized injury” giving her standing to file the suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, even if she allegedly did not intend to visit The Coast Village Inn and Cottages in Wells, Maine.

Ms. Laufer, who is disabled and has filed hundreds of other discrimination lawsuits, 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.

Thomas B. Bacon, of Thomas B. Bacon P.A., in Orlando, Florida, who represented Ms. Laufer in the 1st Circuit case and others, said the issue before the court is whether a plaintiff who has suffered discrimination prohibited by statute must show he or she was harmed by the discrimination.

“I’m fairly confident that we have an excellent chance of making a stand for civil rights in this case,” he said.

Mr. Bacon said while four federal courts of appeal have ruled against plaintiffs including Ms. Laufer in comparable cases in published or unpublished decisions, three have ruled in the plaintiff’s favor.

The hotel’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.