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D.C. Judge Denies Marriott International, Inc.’s Attempt to Dismiss
a Class Action Lawsuit Alleging Marriott Misrepresents
Room Rates at Hotels in Moscow, Russia
Washington, D.C., February 22, 2007 – The Cullen Law Firm, PLLC, announces that the Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., Judge Gladys Kessler presiding, denied Marriott International, Inc.’s attempt to dismiss a class action lawsuit alleging that Marriott misrepresents its room rates at its hotels in Moscow, Russia.  The complaint, filed as Shaw v. Marriott International, Inc., Civil Action No. 05-1138, alleges that Marriott violates the District of Columbia Consumer Protection and Procedures Act, by quoting rates on its internet website in U.S. Dollars, knowing that the final hotel bill will be paid in Russian Rubles in amounts that are higher than those calculated at the official exchange rate.  As alleged in the complaint, hotel guests end up paying significantly more than the amount quoted by Marriott when they made their reservations.

Judge Kessler denied Marriott’s motion to dismiss the complaint, finding that the District of Columbia has a stronger interest than any other potential jurisdictions in protecting the interests of residents of the District of Columbia and in regulating the business practices of its corporate citizens.  The Court rejected Marriott’s argument that the claims should be litigated in a Russian court under Russian law because the events occurred in Russia.  The Court found that the witnesses and evidence necessary to prove Plaintiffs’ allegations are more convenient to the District of Columbia than to Moscow, stating that the accuracy of information available on Marriott’s website and the policies relating to the website are more likely to be formulated at Marriott’s headquarters in D.C. than at the Moscow hotel. 

Judge Kessler determined that the Plaintiffs’ claims would be governed by the law of the District of Columbia. The Court recognized that the Plaintiffs were all either American citizens or legal residents, and that Marriott’s own representations to the public establish its headquarters in the District of Columbia.  The complaint points to numerous public statements made by Marriott that it is headquartered in the Nation’s Capitol. However, it argued to Judge Kessler that it was really headquartered in Maryland. Judge Kessler found that these inconsistent positions further supported the application of District of Columbia law. Additionally, the allegations of wrongdoing are brought under a District of Columbia statute.  The Court held that the “District of Columbia, with its interests in protecting consumers and promoting fair business practices by corporate entities headquartered within the city limits, has the most significant relationship to this case.”

The Court also found that the D.C. consumer protection law can be applied to residents outside the District of Columbia, citing cases approving the application of the statute in a class action context where potential class members claims arose outside of the District of Columbia. “ These findings by the Court will go a long way in supporting class-wide relief for all those who have been harmed by the alleged practices,” said Paul D. Cullen, Sr., counsel for the Plaintiffs in this case.  Mr. Cullen estimates that there have been several hundred thousand hotel guests victimized by the deceptive practices alleged in the complaint during the period covered by the three year statute of limitations.

The complaint (click here for 22 page pdf document) seeks statutory damages of $1,500 per violation of the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act, plus injunctive relief restraining Marriott from continuing the alleged conduct.
 
 

Class Action Lawsuit Filed on May 13, 2005

Washington, D.C., May 13, 2005 - The Cullen Law Firm, PLLC announces that a consumer class action lawsuit was filed on May 13,2005 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia against Marriott International, Inc., on behalf of all guests of Marriott's hotels in Moscow since May 13, 2002. 

The complaint, filed under the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act, alleges that Marriott made deceptive and misleading representations through its worldwide, internet based reservation system on the rates that would be charged at its hotel properties in Russia. According to the complaint, Marriott quotes rates in U.S. Dollars knowing that the final hotel bill will be paid in Russian Rubles in amounts that are higher than those calculated at the official exchange rate. Hotel guests find out about the problem when they get their credit card statement in dollars. According to the complaint, consumers generally end up paying 18 percent more than the amount quoted by Marriott when their reservations were made. Paul D. Cullen, Sr., counsel for the plaintiffs, estimates that there have been several hundred thousand hotel guests victimized by the deceptive practices alleged in the complaint during the period covered by the three year statute of limitations.

Marriott International, Inc. is incorporated in Delaware and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. The complaint describes a, "longstanding, widespread and unambiguous" effort by Marriott to promote the fact that it maintains its headquarters in Washington, DC. The complaint alleges that Marriott's location in the nation's capitol is an important part of its consumer franchise and brand identification: "Marriott has breached the bonds of trust with the traveling public," according to the complaint, "resulting in thousands of consumers being bilked millions of dollars a year." According to Mr. Cullen, "Marriott should be held accountable under the laws of the District of Columbia to the full universe of patrons it has set out to attract because of its deep roots in the nation's capitol." The complaint seeks statutory damages of $1, 500 per violation of the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act, plus injunctive relief restraining Marriott from continuing the alleged conduct.

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Contact:

Paul D. Cullen, Sr. 
pdc@cullenlaw.com
The Cullen Law Firm, PLLC
1101 30th Street, N.W., Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20007
(202) 944-8600

http://www.cullenlaw.com

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Also See: Courtyard by Marriott Reaches 100,000-Room Milestone With Opening of 218-Room Hotel in Moscow, Russia / December 2005

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