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Tester ADA Case Scheduled for Hearing in U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has set oral argument for October 24, 2023 on a case that could shape the future of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) enforcement. At the heart of this legal battle is the question of who has the right to sue under the ADA—a topic that is pitting Acheson Hotels, a Maine-based company, against Deborah Laufer, a prolific ADA “tester.”

Laufer has filed hundreds of lawsuits against various hotels, asserting their websites do not comply with ADA requirements. Interestingly, Laufer hasn’t any plans to patronize these establishments. Despite this, she claims she is on a mission to ensure businesses comply with ADA website requirements, and her legal battles are part of that process.

This serial litigation approach didn’t initially find favor in the courts, with a district court ruling against her standing to sue. However, an appellate court later reversed this decision, paving the way for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the matter.

Implications of this Landmark ADA Case

The implications of this case could be far-reaching and multifaceted:

  1. Legal Standing: The Supreme Court’s ruling could limit “standing,” determining who can and cannot bring an ADA lawsuit. The standing requirement affects not just ADA but all forms of civil rights litigation.
  2. Compliance Incentives: A ruling in favor of “tester” standing could encourage businesses to be proactive in meeting ADA requirements. A contrary ruling, however, could be viewed as reducing the risk to a business of an ADA lawsuit.
  3. Judicial Resources: An increase in “tester” lawsuits could further congest the legal system. Conversely, limiting such lawsuits may let potential non-compliance could go unchallenged.
  4. Civil Advocacy Influence: The role of “testers” could empower individuals or organizations to aggressively challenge non-compliance, while a negative ruling might dampen advocacy efforts.
  5. Small Business Impact: Small businesses could face increased legal risks and compliance costs if “testerlawsuits are allowed to continue. If not, they may experience fewer lawsuits.
  6. Government Enforcement: The verdict could either complement federal enforcement efforts or place more importance on federal agencies to ensure ADA compliance.
  7. Legal Clarity: Regardless of the outcome, a clear Supreme Court ruling could bring much-needed clarity to “Tester” standing under the ADA.
  8. Public Awareness: As Supreme Court cases often attract public attention, which could spark broader discussions on accessibility and inclusion.

In a nutshell, this case could significantly shape how ADA compliance is enforced, affecting businesses, advocacy groups, and the government’s roles in providing accessible services to those with disabilities. Acheson Hotels’ stance is clear—they argue that such lawsuits burden small businesses and congest the legal system. Laufer, on the other hand, insists that without civil rights advocates like her, ADA enforcement would be insufficient. As we await the Supreme Court’s ruling sometime in 2024 both advocates and defendants know the outcome could fundamentally reshape the ADA landscape.