Serial Plaintiff’s ‘Booking Rule’ Lawsuit Against California Hotel Is Dismissed
In another blow to the ADA’s serial litigation against hotels, a judge in the Northern District of California issued an opinion dismissing the case against customer JMBM OCI, which owns and operates a Comfort Inn & Suites near San Francisco International Airport.
Brian Whitaker, who has filed nearly 2,000 lawsuits against the ADA over the past two years, claimed that the OCI failed to include enough detail in its online description of accessible features, violating the “rule of reservation” of the ADA. JMBM filed a motion to dismiss on behalf of the OCI, which was granted on January 6, 2022. This is the second reservation rule case dismissed by this judge. The opinion is available here.
The Reservation Rule refers to ADA guidelines requiring hotels to include accessible room and feature information on their website, so guests know before they book whether they can safely and comfortably stay in the room. the establishment. A hotel may be ADA compliant if it includes a tub or roll-in shower, for example, but some guests may need to know which option is offered in order to determine if the room meets their needs.
The Court found that OCI’s website contained sufficient information because it indicates which rooms are accessible to the ADA and identifies the features available in each room. Features that Whitaker claimed to need specific information on, such as sink accessibility and clearance around furniture and fixtures, are already required by the ADA and do not require further description. If a “picture is worth a thousand words,” then the hotel’s website photographs of accessible features could fill a novel.
Defense attorneys have successfully defeated more than 80 similar cases against hotels; nearly all of these reservation rule cases filed by this law firm have been dismissed. There are important lessons to be learned from writing and developing websites from court decisions, and the lessons for hotels so far are clear – as long as hotels take positive steps to put their websites in compliance with the reservation rule, they are less likely to be the targets of litigants. If targeted, such cases are defensible.