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April 11, 2023

Website Accessibility Lawsuits: US Supreme Court Agrees to Hear ADA Standing Case

The US Supreme Court recently agreed to consider the issue of standing in website accessibility cases under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and presumably will resolve a split among the lower courts as to what constitutes sufficient injury to create standing. The case on appeal is Acheson Hotels LLC v. Laufer.i

In October 2022, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (First Circuit), which has jurisdiction over appeals from federal courts in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island, reversed the dismissal of a complaint brought against Acheson Hotels by serial plaintiff Deborah Laufer, who has filed hundreds of website accessibility lawsuits against businesses in the hospitality industry.

As Barclay Damon previously reported, these cases generally allege that the online reservation systems for the hospitality industry—whether directly operated by the business or indirectly operated through third-party websites—fail to provide details about the accessibility features of rooms at the hotels targeted in violation of the ADA and other laws. In its October decision, the First Circuit held that Laufer, who is visually impaired, has the right to be provided this information under the ADA even if she is searching the internet for noncompliant websites and has no plans to actually book a stay with the hotel in question. The court held that the failure to provide this information resulted in sufficient injury to create standing. The First Circuit joined the Eleventh Circuit in its finding.

By contrast, as Barclay Damon reported on April 4, 2022, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which has jurisdiction over appeals from federal courts in New York State, Connecticut, and Vermont, upheld the dismissal of a similar complaint. The Fifth and Tenth Circuits have similarly rejected the plaintiff’s standing argument.

Given these conflicting outcomes, trade groups asked the US Supreme Court to review the First Circuit decision in Laufer’s case. In taking the case, the Supreme Court is expected to resolve the conflict among the circuit courts over the issue and provide businesses with clearer guidance as to the requirements for digital accessibility under the ADA. 

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Joe Stanganelli, Commercial Litigation Practice Area co-chair, at; Carolyn Marcotte Crowley, partner, at; Martine Wayne, associate, at; or another member of the firm’s Commercial Litigation Practice Area, Labor & Employment Practice Area, or Hotels, Hospitality & Food Service Team.

The Labor & Employment Podcast is a weekly Barclay Damon Live podcast hosted by Ari Kwiatkowski that provides employers with important updates regarding ever-evolving state and federal labor and employment laws as well as a wide range of timely topics pertaining to labor and employment issues in the workplace. Click here to watch or listen to the Labor & Employment Podcast as well as Barclay Damon’s other podcast series: Cyber Sip and Cannabis Counselor.

iUS Supreme Court Case No. 22-429.

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