ADA plaintiffs have often targeted the hotel industry and Theresa Brooke’s latest round of lawsuits is no different. This time, she is suing hotels over their online reservation policies.
The Department of Justice issued regulations relating to hotel reservation policies that went into effect in March 2012. 28 CFR § 26.302(e) provides that, among other things, hotels must:
- modify their policies and practices to allow individuals with disabilities the opportunity to reserve accessible rooms in the same manner as individuals who do not need accessible rooms;
- describe accessible features in the guest rooms so persons with disabilities can determine whether it meets their accessibility needs;
- ensure that accessible guest rooms are held for persons with disabilities until all other guest rooms of that type have been rented; and
- reserve, upon request, accessible guest rooms.
Theresa Brooke’s lawsuits allege that she was not able to reserve accessible rooms while using the defendant hotels’ online reservation platform.
It appears that, until now, only a handful of “online reservation” lawsuits have been filed by plaintiffs over the years. Mrs. Brooke’s lawsuits are unique because she is an Arizona resident filing suit against Denver-area hotels in the U.S. District Court of Arizona.
If she is successful in getting the federal court in Arizona to exercise jurisdiction over out-of-state hotels, it is possible that Theresa Brooke—who has sued more than 550 hotels over the last 24 months—could file suit against thousands of hotels across the country without ever leaving Arizona.
While the Arizona legislature recently enacted tough legislation in an attempt to curb serial ADA litigants, that legislation only affects litigants who are asserting claims under the Arizonans with Disabilities Act (AzDA). Theresa Brooke isn’t bringing AzDA claims; she is choosing to litigate in federal court under the ADA so she is beyond the reach of state law.
A hotel facing a Theresa Brooke lawsuit should do is consult with an experienced and knowledgeable ADA defense attorney. Jennings Strouss has defended dozens of hotels in ADA lawsuits and regularly advises the hospitality industry on ADA compliance measures.