ADA Defense Lawyer: A victory against serial plaintiff: The “Reservation Rule” Lawsuit Against California Hotel Dismissed

By Jim Butler - Partner, Chairman, Global Hospitality Group® and Martin H. Orlick - Chair at JMBM’s ADA Compliance & Defense Group

21 January 2022
Jim  Butler
Jim Butler
Martin H. Orlick
Martin H. Orlick

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.

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.

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JMBM Global Hospitality Group

1900 Avenue of the Stars, Seventh Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90067
United States
Phone: (310) 203-8080
www.jmbm.com

Jim Butler

Jim Butler is a founding partner of JMBM and one of the top hotel lawyers in the world. Devoting 100% of his practice to hospitality, Jim is author of www.HotelLawBlog.com and chairman of the Global Hospitality Group® which focuses on representing hotel owners, developers, and lenders. Jim and his team have helped clients as business and legal advisors on more than $87 billion of hotel purchase, sale, financing, and other transactions, involving more than 3,900 properties all over the world. In the last 18 months, they have closed more than $1.5 billion of EB-5 financing and sourced more than half of that for our clients. In addition to acquisitions, dispositions and financing, the Group handles ADA compliance and defense, hotel mixed-use development, labor and employment, management, branding and franchise agreements and litigation. With experience gained from more than 1,000 bankruptcies, receiverships and workouts, they use innovative solutions to unlock and create value for lenders and opportunistic investors for distressed assets. Jim also serves as an expert witness in hospitality matters.

Martin H. Orlick

Marty Orlick's practice, encompassing more than 30 years, focuses primarily on real estate transactions and real estate litigation, including hospitality, financial institution, shopping center, retail and commercial leasing, acquisitions and sales, lease administration for developers and tenants, portfolio management, regulation of real property use and development, eminent domain litigation and counseling, and abstracting lease portfolios. He is experienced in counseling and defending clients with respect to Americans with Disabilities Act claims in State and Federal court and defending Department of Justice investigations and complaints, including negotiating Voluntary Compliance Agreements. His ADA practice includes counseling businesses on the full spectrum of ADA compliance including the development of policy and procedure manuals and website accessibility issues. Marty has represented the nation's largest financial institutions in corporate real estate, litigation, class actions, and ADA cases. He has also represented trust clients of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Bank of America and Bank of the West. He is a member of the Global Hospitality Group®.

Jim Butler

Phone: +1 310 201 3526
jbutler@jmbm.com