Supreme Court Denies Attempt By Disability ‘Tester’ Who Targeted Hundreds Of Hotels To Get Her Case Removed

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  • The Supreme Court said Thursday it will still hear a case considering an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) tester’s standing to sue hotels she never visited for failing to offer disability accommodations after the individual who filed the initial lawsuit, Deborah Laufer, requested the Court find it moot.
  • Acheson Hotels argued Laufer’s request was really a way for her and similar plaintiffs to “resume their campaign of extortionate ADA suits against unwitting small businesses without the hindrance of an adverse ruling” from the Supreme Court.
  • Oral arguments for Acheson Hotels, LLC v. Laufer are scheduled for Oct. 4.

The Supreme Court rejected on Thursday an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) tester’s attempt to remove her case, which considers her standing to sue hotels she never visited for failing to offer disability accommodations, from the high court’s docket.

Deborah Laufer, who has targeted over 600 hotel owners and operators with ADA lawsuits, asked the Supreme Court on July 24 to find her case against Acheson Hotels moot because she had dismissed all claims against the business, citing concern that a sanctions order levied against her attorney may “distract” from their merits. In a brief order Thursday, the Supreme Court denied Laufer’s request, writing that the question of mootness would be “subject to further consideration” during oral arguments scheduled for Oct. 4.

One of Laufer’s lawyers, Tristan Gillespie, was suspended from the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland bar on July 5 for six months. A disciplinary panel found Gillespie routinely inflated the hours spent on hundreds of “boilerplate” complaints against hotels that included the “same typos and misspellings,” demanding $10,000 in attorneys fees for each complaint, according to a report.

“In one day, Gillespie has filed as many as sixteen ADA tester complaints,” the June 30 report notes.

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Acheson Hotels, which appealed the case to the Supreme Court in November after the First Circuit sided with Laufer, opposed Laufer’s effort to have the case pulled in a July 28 filing, arguing it was actually an attempt to avoid an unfavorable ruling. (RELATED: Can A Hotel Be Sued Over Disability Accommodations By Someone Who’s Never Been There? SCOTUS To Decide)

“Laufer is abandoning her case to pave the way for Laufer and similar plaintiffs to resume their campaign of extortionate ADA suits against unwitting small businesses without the hindrance of an adverse ruling from this Court,” lawyers for Acheson Hotels argued. “The Court should not reward Laufer’s effort to insulate lower court rulings upholding ‘tester’ standing from Supreme Court review.”

The sanctions order found that Laufer’s lawyers “defrauded scores of hotels by lying to them during settlement negotiations; defrauded scores of courts by lying in fee petitions; and funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to an ‘investigator’ who did virtually no work and who happens to be the father of Laufer’s granddaughter,” according to Acheson Hotels’ filing.

David C. Tyron, Director of Litigation at The Buckeye Institute, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that despite Laufer’s request to moot the case, she “does not claim any intention to stop” filing lawsuits.

“It is apparent that Ms. Laufer sees the handwriting on the wall that she is going to lose the case,” he said. “The ADA is an important law, but Ms. Laufer and her lawyers are abusing the judicial system by suing small business owners to extract a quick settlement—even though Ms. Laufer has no intention of using their services.”

South Texas College of Law Houston Professor Josh Blackman wrote in a July 29 Reason article that Laufer’s request was another example of progressives, not wanting to risk setting an unfavorable nationwide precedent, attempting to remove cases from the Supreme Court’s docket after it has already granted review contrary to their wishes.

“Of course, there will be howls (like with 303 Creative) that the Court decided a ‘fake’ case that was already moot,” he said. “But I think that argument cuts the other way. Laufer, and other testers like her, routinely bring ‘fake’ cases to extract settlements: demand $10,000 from a small business to make the case go away.”

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