There are folks with disabilities who test websites to see if those websites are ADA compliant. I previously wrote about one tester, Deborah Laufer here. In Laufer v. Acheson Hotels, 50 F.4th 259 (2022), the First Circuit ruled that Ms. Laufer as a tester did have standing for her ADA lawsuit. Some of the ADA testers are literally filing hundreds of lawsuits each year. The hotels who are often the targets of those lawsuits question whether the testers ever possessed sincere intentions to visit those hotels.
U.S. Supreme Court
One of the tester cases has been appealed to the U.S Supreme Court. Ms. Laufer’s case against Acheson Hotels was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But, the lawyer who handled that case and who has handled hundreds of her lawsuits was suspended by a federal court in Maryland for six months. Last July, a court noted that Tristan W. Gillespie filed multiple tester lawsuits all with the same typos and misspellings. Yet, he claims that it took him two to four hours to draft each complaint. He filed 16 such tester lawsuits in one day. Mr. Gillespie conceded at a disciplinary hearing that he submitted fee petitions which contained some false entries.
After that suspension, Acheson Hotels submitted a brief to the Supreme Court. That brief accused Laufer’s now former attorneys of defrauding scores of hotels in their fee petitions; claims those lawyers sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to an investigator who did little work, but was father to Ms. Laufer’s grand-daughter; and that those lawyers lied to the hotels in settlement negotiations.
After Mr. Gillespie was sanctioned, Ms. Laufer submitted documents asking to drop her Supreme Court appeal – without a decision. As one commentator observed, it appears that Ms. Laufer wishes to avoid a bad decision – one which may well overturn that favorable decision in Laufer v. Acheson Hotels. See ABA Bar Journal report here for more information.
Indeed, even though the actions of Mr. Gillespie in no way would involve Ms. Laufer, those sanctions will surely color her entire appeal. Mr. Gillespie’s conduct does support the hotels’ general allegation that the testers do not truly intend to stay at these hotels and that these suits amount to nothing more than an attempt to secure attorney’s fees. It appears that Mr. Gillespie was cranking out lawsuits. But, certainly, these lawsuits benefited persons with disabilities across the country.