The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case in which a self-proclaimed discrimination law “tester” sued an inn for failing to provide information about its availability, even though she allegedly had no intention of visiting the property.
In the case up for review, the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston in October reversed a dismissal by the Portland, Maine, U.S. District Court of Deborah Laufer v. Acheson Hotels LLC. The appeals court ruled that Laufer had suffered “a concrete and special injury” that entitled her to file suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, even though she allegedly had no intention of visiting The Coast Village Inn and Cottages in Wells, Maine.
Laufer, who is disabled and has filed hundreds of other discrimination lawsuits, charged that Acheson failed to identify available rooms, provide an option to reserve such a room, or provide sufficient information to determine whether the rooms and inn 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 PA, in Orlando, Fla., who represented Laufer in the 1st Circuit case and others, said the question before the court is whether a plaintiff who has suffered discrimination prohibited by law must show that he or she has been harmed by the discrimination.
“I’m pretty sure we have an excellent chance to take a stand for civil rights in this case,” he said.
Mr. Bacon said while four federal appeals courts have ruled against plaintiffs including Laufer in comparable cases in published or unpublished decisions, three have ruled in the plaintiff’s favor.
A lawyer for the hotel did not respond to a request for comment.