19 January 2022
Serial ADA litigants are continuing to face challenges in the courts as dozens of cases alleging a failure to include accessibility information on hotel websites are being dismissed. Martin Orlick, Chair of JMBM’s ADA Compliance & Defense Group, describes one such case faced by a JMBM client below. This successful outcome is good news for hotels worried about Reservation Rules lawsuits.
Serial Plaintiff’s “Reservation Rule” Lawsuit Against California Hotel Dismissed
Martin Orlick, Chair, JMBM’s ADA Compliance & Defense Group
In another blow to serial ADA litigation against hotels, a judge in the Northern District of California has issued an opinion dismissing the case against JMBM client OCI, which owns and operates a Comfort Inn & Suites near the San Francisco International Airport.
Brian Whitaker, who has filed nearly 2,000 ADA lawsuits in the last two years, claimed that OCI failed to include enough detail in its online description of accessible features, violating the ADA’s “Reservation Rule.” JMBM filed a motion to dismiss on behalf of OCI, which was granted on January 6, 2022. This is the second Reservation Rule cases dismissed by this judge. The opinion is available here.
The Reservation Rule refers to ADA guidelines requiring that hotels include information about accessible rooms and features on their website, so that guests know before booking if they are able to safely and comfortably stay at the property. A hotel may be ADA compliant if it includes either a bathtub or roll-in shower, for example, but some guests may need to know which option is provided in order to determine if the room meets their needs.
The Court found that OCI’s website included sufficient information because its states which rooms are ADA accessible, and identifies which features are available in each room. The features Whitaker claimed to need specific information about, such as sink accessibility and clearance around furniture and fixtures, are already required by the ADA and do not need additional description. If a “picture tells a thousand words,” then the hotel’s website’s photographs of the accessible features could fill a novel.
Defense counsel have successfully defeated over 80 similar cases against hotels; nearly all of these Reservation Rule cases filed by this law firm have been dismissed. There are important drafting and website development takeaways from the Courts’ rulings, and the lessons for hotels so far are clear – as long as hotels take affirmative steps to bring their websites into compliance with the Reservation Rule, they are less likely to be the targets of litigants. If they are targeted, such cases are defensible.
Martin H. Orlick is one of the top ADA defense lawyers in the country. He has helped hotels, restaurants, retailers, banks and other commercial property owners defend more than 600 ADA cases. In addition to defending lawsuits and governmental investigations, Marty’s team of ADA specialists focuses on enterprise-wide ADA compliance and litigation prevention, including facilities, website and operational compliance.
Marty is the Chair of JMBM’s ADA Compliance & Defense Group, a Partner in JMBM’s Real Estate Group, and a member of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers (ACREL). For more information about ADA compliance and defense, contact Marty Orlick at 415.984.9667 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is Jim Butler, author of www.HotelLawBlog.com and founding partner of JMBM and JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group®. We provide business and legal advice to hotel owners, developers, independent operators and investors. This advice covers critical hotel issues such as hotel purchase, sale, development, financing, franchise, management, ADA, and IP matters. We also have compelling experience in hotel litigation, union avoidance and union negotiations, and cybersecurity & data privacy.
JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® has helped clients around the world with more than 4,500 hospitality properties worth more than $112 billion. Contact me at +1-310-201-3526 or email@example.com to discuss how we can help.