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Shaw v. Marriott International

February 22, 2007

BRITT A. SHAW, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL, INC. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gladys Kessler United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiffs, Britt A. Shaw, Irina Paliashvili, and Neal M. Charness filed this putative class action complaint against Defendant Marriott International, Inc. ("Marriott").*fn1 They allege unlawful trade practices in violation of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act ("CPPA"), D.C. Code §§ 28-3901, et seq., and unjust enrichment.

This matter is before the Court on Marriott's Motion to Dismiss [Dkt. No. 7]. Upon consideration of the Motion, Opposition, Reply and the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated below, Marriott's Motion to Dismiss is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts*fn2

This case involves Marriott's alleged "misrepresentations and omissions to its hotel guests -- Plaintiffs and [the putative] class members herein -- regarding pricing practices at Marriott's Moscow, Russia hotel properties." Am. Compl. ¶ 1.

According to Plaintiffs, prospective guests of Marriott's Moscow, Russia hotels log onto the Marriott website where Marriott provides price quotes in U.S. dollars. The Marriott website also provides a currency calculator that translates U.S. dollars into Russian rubles at the official exchange rate set by the Central Bank of Russia.

Upon checkout, Marriott renders the final bill in U.S. dollars, which is then converted into Russian rubles at an exchange rate that is higher than the official exchange rate set by the Central Bank of Russia. Guests pay the bill in rubles. They arrive home to discover on their credit card statements that the credit card company has converted the payment amount back into U.S. dollars at the lower, official exchange rate. As a result of this gap between the exchange rates, hotel guests pay a final price approximately 18 percent higher than the original price Marriott quoted, and confirmed at the time of mailing the reservations, as calculated on its website into Russian rubles, at the official exchange rate set by the Central Bank of Russia.

Putative class representative Britt A. Shaw made a reservation on the Marriott website on April 14, 2005 to stay at the Renaissance Moscow Hotel (a Marriott hotel) on April 19, 2005. He received a confirmation with a quoted room rate of U.S.$425 per night. The currency calculator on Marriott's website indicated an exchange rate of 27.78 Russian rubles per one U.S. dollar.

When he checked out of the Renaissance Moscow Hotel, his bill was reflected in undefined units entitled "UNT"s. The bill showed the room rate of 425.00, along with other hotel expenses, for a total of "658.70 UNT." The bill indicated an exchange rate of 32 Russian rubles per UNT, for a total charge of 21078.40 rubles. He paid his bill with his American Express card. When he received his American Express statement, his hotel bill was charged at U.S.$775.69, which reflects the credit card's conversion of the 21078.40 rubles into U.S. dollars at the official exchange rate of 27 Rubles per U.S. dollar.

Plaintiffs allege that Ms. Paliashvili, Mr. Charness, and other putative class members had similar experiences as a result of Marriott's misrepresentations.

Mr. Shaw is an American citizen who currently lives in London, England but previously resided in New York; Ms. Paliashvili is a permanent resident of the District of Columbia; Mr. Charness is a resident of the state of Michigan.

B. Procedural History

On May 13, 2005, Plaintiffs filed this suit in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Marriott removed the case to this Court on June 9, 2005. Plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint on July 1, 2005. The Amended Complaint, filed under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, alleges that Marriott's misrepresentations and omissions to its hotel guests regarding its pricing practices violated the CPPA and provided unjust enrichment to Marriott. They seek an order enjoining Marriott from engaging in the complained of pricing practices, the greater of damages in the amount of $1,500 per violation or treble damages, a constructive trust or restitution of the monies wrongfully withheld by Marriott, as well as attorney's fees, interest and costs.

Marriott filed this Motion to Dismiss on July 21, 2005 [Dkt. No. 7]. Marriott claims that the Amended Complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim or, in the alternative, on the basis of forum non conveniens. Plaintiffs filed an Opposition on August 3, 2005 [Dkt. No. 11], and Marriott filed a Reply on August 15, 2005 [Dkt. No. 13].

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss should only be granted "when it appears beyond doubt that, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff will be unable to prove any set of facts that would justify relief." Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). Because such motions "summarily extinguish litigation at the threshold and foreclose the opportunity for discovery and factual presentation, [they] should be treated with the greatest of care." Haynesworth v. Miller, 820 F.2d 1245, 1254 (D.C. Cir. 1987). Accordingly, the factual allegations of the ...


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