content top

Serial ADA Plaintiff Theresa Brooke Returns to Arizona

By: Lindsay Leavitt Attorney, Jennings, Strouss & Salmon, P.L.C.

Serial plaintiff Theresa Brooke is back in Arizona filing more ADA accessibility lawsuits. Arizona hotel owners will remember that it was Theresa Brooke who, in 2015, opened the floodgates of accessibility lawsuits—she personally sued more than 100 hotels for failing to install wheelchair accessible pool lifts. For the past eighteen months she and her counsel, Peter K. Strojnik, have been touring California filing hundreds of “pool lift” lawsuits. She ran into problems, however, when California courts questioned her standing to file her lawsuits because she never actually visited the hotels (and therefore did not personally encounter the barriers to accessibility).

With her latest set of ADA lawsuits, Theresa Brooke attempts to get around the standing requirements by alleging that the websites of the defendant hotels (all based in the Denver area) do not allow her to reserve wheelchair accessible rooms online. This is a novel argument—and, if successful, could theoretically allow Theresa Brooke to sue hotels all across the country without personally visiting any of them. Theresa Brooke’s lawsuits are also unique because website accessibility lawsuits are typically brought by a person with visual or hearing impairments. Theresa Brooke has neither.

Theresa Brooke’s first-of-its-kind lawsuits raise a number of legal issues. For example, does the U.S. District Court of Arizona have specific personal jurisdiction over these Denver-area hotels? Courts have generally declined to assert personal jurisdiction solely on the basis of web advertising and instead look to see whether the defendants has more active contacts with a forum.

Regarding the substance of her allegations, whether websites are places of “public accommodation” for ADA purposes is a hot topic right now and courts within the Ninth Circuit have issued rulings on both sides of the argument. Theresa Brooke’s lawsuits, however, raise a more narrow issue—she is able to access the hotel websites, but allegedly cannot reserve a wheelchair accessible room on the website. As someone who has defended more than 300 ADA lawsuits over the past 24 months—including more than two dozen filed by Theresa Brooke—this is a unique issue and one that I haven’t seen addressed by any court. That being said, the usual ADA defenses of standing, mootness, etc., will still apply to these cases and could be successful.

Accordingly, the first step a business defendant should do after receiving a lawsuit from Ms. Brooke is to contact a capable and experienced ADA defense attorney.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Leavitt_Lindsay_99x135px_webMr. Leavitt represents and advises small and mid-size businesses in employment, landlord/tenant, and general litigation matters. He often serves as a de facto general counsel to business owners, providing practical advice on a variety of legal issues. Mr. Leavitt’s appreciation for small businesses is due, in part, to his own family’s entrepreneurialism. His father, brother and wife are all small business owners, providing him with first-hand knowledge of the issues small businesses face, enabling him to better provide clients with real-world and cost-effective solutions. Mr. Leavitt also serves as Chair of the firm’s Food, Beverage, and Hospitality industry group.

Mr. Leavitt can be reached at 602.262.5825 or lleavitt@jsslaw.com.

Legal Disclaimer

Please note that the materials contained within this web site have been prepared by Jennings, Strouss & Salmon, P.L.C. for informational purposes only so that readers may learn more about the firm, the services it provides the background of its attorneys, and recent developments in the law. These materials do not constitute, and should not be considered, legal advice, and you are urged to consult with an attorney on your own specific legal matters. Transmission of the information contained in the Jennings, Strouss & Salmon web site is not intended to create, and receipt by the reader does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship with Jennings, Strouss & Salmon or any of its individual attorneys. While we would certainly like to hear from you, we cannot represent you until we know that doing so will not create a conflict of interest. Please do not send us any information about a matter that may involve you until you receive written authorization to do so from one of our attorneys. Unless otherwise indicated in individual attorney biographies, attorneys resident in the firm's various offices are not certified by the Board of Legal Specialization or a similar body of any State. This site may contain hyperlinks to Web sites operated by parties' independent from Jennings, Strouss & Salmon. Such hyperlinks are provided for your reference only. Jennings, Strouss & Salmon does not control such Web sites, and is not responsible for their content. Jennings, Strouss & Salmon's inclusion of hyperlinks to such Web sites does not imply any endorsement of the material on such Web sites or any association with their content. Your access and use of such sites, including information, material, products, and services therein, shall be solely at your own risk. Further, because the privacy policy of this Site is applicable only when you are on this Site, once linked to another Web site, you should read that site's privacy policy before disclosing any personal information.