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Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Right of a Hotel Customer to Sue for Additional
 Money Damages for Fraud and Breach of Contract In Case of Bogus
 Occupancy Taxes Charged to Room Bill

By John Nolan, Dayton Daily News, OhioMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 18, 2010 --The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the right of a hotel customer to sue the hotel for recovery of fictitious taxes that were charged to the bill for her room.

The court's 6-0 ruling on Tuesday, May 18, upheld the right of Julie Volbers-Klarich to sue Middletown Management Inc. for recovery of the nonexistent taxes charged to the bill for her room at a Hampton Inn in Fairfield in August 2002. Her lawsuit also claimed additional money damages for fraud, breach of contract and violation of Ohio consumer protection laws.

Volbers-Klarich alleged that, in addition to state tax, her bill included a 6.5 percent charge identified as being for Butler County and Fairfield city excise taxes. She later learned that Butler County didn't begin charging its current 3 percent excise tax on hotel rooms until Oct. 1, 2003, and that Fairfield does not impose an excise tax on hotel rooms.

Lower courts had upheld Middletown Management's argument that the lawsuit should be dismissed for failure to state a claim on which the suit could be based. The lower courts ruled that Volbers-Klarich would have to apply to a government taxing authority for a refund, rather than pursue the hotel operator.

In reversing those rulings, the Ohio Supreme Court noted that prior cases cited as precedents involved the wrongful collection of an existing tax. In this case, the taxes charged to Volbers-Klarich had never been authorized by law, Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton wrote for the Supreme Court.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2242 or jnolan@DaytonDailyNews.com.

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Copyright (c) 2010, Dayton Daily News, Ohio

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