News for the Hospitality Executive
|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.
Paul D. Cullen, Sr.
|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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