By Minh N. Vu

Seyfarth synopsis:  The opening brief in Acheson Hotels v. Laufer, the first case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court in more than 18 years, was filed today.

Today, Petitioner/Defendant Acheson Hotels LLC filed its opening brief in the first ADA Title III case before SCOTUS in over eighteen years.  In our view, the decision in Acheson v. Laufer will either (1) open the floodgates for individuals with disabilities to visit businesses they do not intend to patronize in order to test and sue them for ADA non-compliance, or (2) make it a little bit harder for such individuals to sue. 

As we discussed in an earlier post when SCOTUS granted Certiorari, the question before the Court is whether a person with a disability has standing to sue a business for non-compliance with ADA requirements if that person has no interest in ever patronizing that business.    

In Acheson, the plaintiff visited the hotel’s website and alleged that it was missing accessibility information required by the ADA.  The district court concluded that the plaintiff was not injured by the alleged violation and did not have standing to sue because she had no interest in patronizing the hotel.  The First Circuit disagreed and reversed, holding that an intent to patronize the business was not necessary for standing.  We think that SCOTUS granted Certiorari because the First Circuit’s decision does not align with its more recent decisions on standing and there is a bona fide circuit split on this issue.

While Acheson is a website case, SCOTUS’s decision will also be relevant to the standing analysis for cases involving alleged physical barriers because, to have standing to sue, plaintiffs must demonstrate a desire to return to the allegedly non-compliant facilities in the future.  If plaintiffs can satisfy this requirement by simply claiming that they intend to return as testers to evaluate compliance, all plaintiffs will seemingly be able to meet this requirement.  On the other hand, if SCOTUS determines that an intent to patronize is necessary, plaintiffs will need to work a little harder to allege facts demonstrating their desire to patronize the business in the future (prior visits, their reasons for visiting, proximity to their residence, etc.). 

Plaintiff/Respondent’s brief is due August 2, 2023.  No argument date has been set.

Edited by John W. Egan