Over the last few years, California hotels have faced a staggering amount of ADA website lawsuits. Plaintiffs are almost universally from ADA plaintiff firm “Potter Handy LLP dba Center for Disability Access” (“Potter Handy”). Potter Handy’s professional plaintiffs have filed hundreds of lawsuits, stating for one reason or another that a hotel’s website lacks accessible information for the plaintiff to reserve a room.
Throughout 2021, many Defendants have pushed back against these lawsuits, arguing that the accessibility information Plaintiffs expect is not required by law. Defendant’s argument is founded on the guidance of the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) which provides clarification of the vague ADA reservations regulations that are in place.
Currently, more than ninety ADA website cases have been dismissed by Courts throughout California. However, there are still some judges that are siding with plaintiffs. Potter Handy has appealed a few of the dismissed decisions.
The three Ninth Circuit appeals are:
Love v. Marriott Hotel Services, Inc., No. 21-15458 (“MHSI”)
Garcia v. Gateway Hotel L.P., No 21-55227 (“Gateway”)
Garcia v. E.L. Heritage Inn of Sacramento, LLC, No. 21-15674 (“E.L. Heritage”)
Potter Handy claims that all three plaintiffs planned on making a trip to a specific hotel, and needed an accessible guestroom because of their mobility disabilities. The plaintiffs allege that upon visiting defendants’ website, the website failed to state the hotel’s accessible features in sufficient detail.
In all three cases, the courts will examine the Reservations Rule, the DOJ’s commentary about the Reservations Rule at 28 C.F.R. Pt. 36, App. A (the “2010 Guidance”), and district court decisions concerning the Reservations Rule about the disclosure of accessibility information. Id. None of the decisions cite to any controlling Ninth Circuit precedent on the Reservations Rule because the Ninth Circuit has never opined on what accessibility information must be disclosed under the Reservations Rule.
As shown, these appealed ADA website cases are of paramount importance for the future of the ADA website landscape. A favorable ruling for Defendants could spell the end of ADA hotel website lawsuits in California. While an unfavorable ruling could wreak havoc on the hotel industry. Two of these appeals have oral arguments set for February 2022 – stay tuned for the latest updates.