AHLA facilitates victories against tester lawsuits and the homeless-in-hotels ballot measure
Dec. 5, 2023, was an important day for the hotel industry, as hoteliers scored key victories in two tough, high-profile fights that have vexed the industry for years: tester lawsuits and Los Angeles’ homeless-in-hotels ballot initiative.
Supreme Court Reviews Serial Lawsuits
It’s rare that an issue affecting our industry goes all the way to the Supreme Court. But in early December, the court delivered hoteliers a victory in the case of Acheson Hotels, LLC v. Laufer. The case dealt with tester lawsuits, in which plaintiffs file hundreds of legal complaints against hotels in an effort to shake down small-business owners and make a quick buck.
While AHLA was hoping for a broader ruling, as a result of this case the plaintiff dismissed hundreds of suits against hotels and vowed to the court that she would never again bring these types of claims. Here’s what happened: Serial litigant Deborah Laufer sued hundreds of hotels for alleged failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But Laufer never intended to stay at the hotels she sued. She simply filed the lawsuits based off information she found on their websites.
Acheson Hotels fought back, however, and with the support of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, it argued that Laufer lacked the legal standing to sue hotels she had no intention of ever visiting.
A lower court had ruled against Acheson, but things changed when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case at the urging of AHLA, several of our partner state associations, and others.
After the high court agreed to take up the case, Laufer dismissed her suit against Acheson and hundreds of others she had filed. She also promised the court she wouldn’t file similar cases in the future. Laufer has been responsible for so many of these types of suits, she single-handedly caused several federal courts to issue conflicting rulings, causing disarray and confusion of federal law.
The Supreme Court also vacated the lower court decision that had found in favor of the plaintiff—a strong signal from the court that it may not tolerate these kinds of cases moving forward.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a critical civil rights law; however, Acheson Hotels, LLC v. Laufer was never about legal compliance. It was about using the ADA as a cover to score quick settlements against small-business owners, and we’re pleased the nation’s top court took action to deter this practice in the future.
Common Sense Wins in California
Hotels in Los Angeles have been fighting for years against a move to house homeless people next to paying guests. Incredibly, this ridiculous idea came from Unite Here, a union that represents hospitality workers in the city. Unite Here gathered enough signatures to successfully put the issue on the ballot in Los Angeles. Voters were set to decide in March of this year whether all L.A. hotels would be forced to house homeless people next to paying guests, and early polling showed it had a real chance of passing. This obviously would have put L.A. hotel workers and the city’s entire tourism industry in serious danger.
Thankfully, the L.A. City Council voted Dec. 5 to withdraw the homeless-in-hotels measure from the ballot. The vote came after Unite Here formally asked the council to remove the measure, which would not have happened without the joint efforts of the California Hotel & Lodging Association, the Hotel Association of Los Angeles, and AHLA.
The fact that Unite Here pushed this policy for nearly two years only to abandon it at the last minute reveals the whole effort was nothing more than a bargaining tactic rather than a serious attempt to address Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis.
Ultimately, the union sent a strong message to hoteliers and policymakers everywhere that even the safety and security of its own members is up for negotiation. Nevertheless, AHLA will always fight to put hotel employee and guest safety first, even when Unite Here refuses to do so.
Our victories in Los Angeles and at the Supreme Court are proof that commonsense policies can still prevail. But they also underscore the need for hoteliers to speak with one strong voice at all levels of government. AHLA is proud to be that voice for you, and we look forward to more successes throughout 2024.