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Rotunda v. Marriott International, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

September 3, 2015

DONALD ROTUNDA, APPELLANT,
v.
MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL, INC., APPELLEE

Argued June 24, 2015

Page 981

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CAB-6829-11). (Hon. Frederick H. Weisberg, Trial Judge).

Paul D. Cullen, Sr., and Joyce E. Mayers, with whom Toni J. Ellington was on the supplemental brief, for appellant.

Holly Drumheller Butler and Bruce V. Spiva, with whom Rhett P. Martin and Charles P. Scheeler were on the brief, for appellee.

Karl A. Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, Loren L. AliKhan, Deputy Solicitor General, Bennett Rushkoff, Chief, Public Advocacy Section, and Nicholas Bush, Assistant Attorney General, filed a brief amicus curiae on behalf of the District of Columbia.

Before THOMPSON and BECKWITH, Associates Judges, and FARRELL, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Page 982

Farrell, Senior Judge

Appellant Donald Rotunda brought this suit for damages under D.C. Code § 28-3905 (k)(1) (2012 Repl.), part of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA), on behalf of himself and the " general public." In the complaint Rotunda expressly disclaimed any intention to seek class certification under Superior Court Rule of Civil Procedure 23. The trial court dismissed the representative portion of the suit for that reason.[1] We affirm, because we find no explicit statement of an intention by the Council of the District of Columbia to supplant with ad hoc procedures the framework long established by Rule 23 to govern representative suits in the Superior Court.

I. Background

Rotunda sued appellee Marriott International, Inc. under the CPPA for alleged deception in quoting prices for rooms at its Russian hotels in U.S. dollars, when payment at checkout was required to be in Russian rubles at an internal exchange rate invariably more favorable to the hotel than that day's Central Bank exchange rate. The suit was brought on behalf of Rotunda personally and all those members of " the general public," D.C. Code § 28-3905 (k)(1), who had allegedly been victimized by this practice. It sought statutory or actual damages.

The case came before Judge Weisberg on Marriott's motion to dismiss the representative action because Rotunda had expressly declined to seek class certification and compliance with the procedures of Rules 23 and 23-I. The judge recognized that the same issue had been decided by Judge Bartnoff in an earlier unrelated case, Margolis v. U-Haul Int'l, Inc., 2007 CA 5245, (D.C. Super. Ct. Dec. 17, 2009), and he dismissed largely on the strength of Judge Bartnoff's reasoning and dismissal there. Specifically, he agreed with her " that a CPPA claim for money damages brought by an individual on behalf of himself and other similarly situated members of the general public is in essence a class action, whether pled as such or not, and must satisfy the requirements of Rule 23" (emphasis by Judge Weisberg). The fact that the D.C. Council, in year 2000 amendments to the CPPA, " intended to permit representative claims for money damages" did not, in Judge Weisberg's view,

answer the question of whether the Council intended to exempt such claims from the requirements of Rule 23. The legislative history is silent on the point, but the Council is presumed to legislate with knowledge of the applicable Civil Rules, and there is no reason to assume the Council did not expect and intend the Rule 23 procedural requirements to apply to a CPPA claim for money damages brought by an individual on his own behalf and on behalf of similarly ...

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