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Shaw v. Marriott International

August 12, 2008

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 a putative class action complaint against Defendant Marriott International, Inc. ("Marriott").*fn1 On October 19, 2007, the Complaint was amended to, among other things,*fn2 withdraw Ms. Paliashvili as a named plaintiff and add Dr. Sarah Mendelson and The Center for Strategic and International Studies, Inc. ["CSIS"] as named plaintiffs. Plaintiffs allege unlawful trade practices in violation of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act ("CPPA" or the "Act"), D.C. Code §§ 28-3901, et seq. ("Count I"), and unjust enrichment ("Count II").

This matter is before the Court on Marriott's Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. No. 106] and Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment on the Issue of Liability [Dkt. No. 109]. Upon consideration of the Motions, Oppositions, Replies, and the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated below, Marriott's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted, and therefore Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment on the Issue of Liability is denied as moot.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts*fn3

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 differential in 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 Dr. Mendelson, CSIS (through its employees), Mr. Charness, and other putative class members had similar experiences as a result of Marriott's misrepresentations.

Mr. Shaw is an American citizen, with a Florida domicile for tax purposes, who currently lives in London, England but previously resided in New York; Mr. Charness is a resident of the state of Michigan; Dr. Mendelson is a resident of the District of Columbia and employee of CSIS; and CSIS is a nonprofit Delaware corporation headquartered in the District of Columbia.

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 (Count I) and provided unjust enrichment to Marriott (Count II). Plaintiffs seek an order requiring an accounting, enjoining Marriott from engaging in the complained of pricing practices, awarding the greater of damages in the amount of $1,500 per violation or treble damages, and creating a constructive trust or restitution of the monies wrongfully withheld by Marriott. Plaintiffs also seek an award of attorneys' fees, interest, and costs.

On February 22, 2007, the Court denied Marriott's Motion to Dismiss the First Amended Complaint, concluding that the suit should not be dismissed on forum non conveniens grounds, and that, assuming as true the factual allegations of the complaint, the CPPA, rather than Russian law, was applicable to the dispute. See Shaw v. Marriott Int'l, Inc., 474 F. Supp. 2d 141 (D.D.C. 2007).

On October 19, 2007, the Complaint was amended, with leave from the Court, to withdraw Ms. Paliashvili as a named plaintiff and add Dr. Sarah Mendelson and CSIS as named plaintiffs. The Second Amended Complaint also added a cause of action for misrepresentation against Marriott for allegedly misrepresenting its "geographic origin" in violation of the CPPA, D.C. Code §§ 28-3904 (a), (t).

On October 26, 2007, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Certify Class [Dkt. No. 62], and on November 2, 2007, Defendant Marriott filed a Motion for Partial Dismissal of Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint [Dkt. No. 65]. On June 2, 2008, Defendant filed its Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. No. 106] and Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the ...


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