Does an ADA Tester have standing to sue?

The U.S. Supreme Court recently discussed a case related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It was about whether a person who checks a business’s website for ADA compliance without planning to visit the business (“a tester”) can legally challenge it if it lacks required disability accessibility information.

Here is some background: Deborah Laufer, who brought the case, had filed similar lawsuits against businesses for ADA violations on their websites. In this case, she looked at the website of Acheson Hotel, a business she had no intention of visiting, to test if it followed ADA rules. The lower court said she could not sue because she did not plan to visit the hotel, but the Appeals Court disagreed.

The Plaintiff cannot avoid the Supreme Court ruling by Dropping the Case

Before the Supreme Court could decide, Laufer dropped her case, and Acheson argued she did it on purpose to avoid a ruling against her. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, considering whether the original question was moot (meaning no longer relevant) since the property was sold.

During the argument, two main questions came up:

  1. Should the Supreme Court even decide if Laufer had the right to sue as a tester, or should they say the case is moot and not address it?
  2. If they do talk about the tester issue, when does someone have a legal claim after finding a violation on a website?

Some Justices felt the case was already over (moot) and did not want to discuss it further. Others worried that people might use this tactic to avoid court decisions if they did not decide. They also noted that different courts had different opinions on tester cases.

Supreme Court Decision Does not Resolve Standing of “Testers”

On the website issue, they asked many “what if” questions to understand when someone should be allowed to sue over an ADA website violation. Some thought finding a violation should be enough, while others disagreed.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court has yet to make a clear decision. But some Justices want them to make a ruling to clarify the law, which would be necessary for people with disabilities and businesses.