Law360 (September 1, 2020, 2:55 PM EDT) -- Travel company Tauck Inc. urged a Connecticut federal court to toss a proposed class action alleging it withheld insurance premiums customers paid for trips canceled due to COVID-19, saying the class representative is not legally entitled to a refund.
Tauck Inc., doing business as Tauck World Discovery, said Monday that the proposed class representative failed to show that he has any legal right to a refund of premiums he paid for a travel protection program. And since the customer is not a Connecticut resident injured in the state, his class action alleging violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act fails, it said.
John Beermann of Florida sued the company in May after Tauck allegedly refused to pay back an almost $1,600 premium after his 15-night cruise to Japan was canceled. Beermann asked the court to hold that Tauck should return his premiums instead of offering credits, according to filings.
In Monday's motion, Tauck said it was forced to cancel all tours through July 31, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but provided customers full trip refunds including Beermann's $29,000 Japanese cruise. The company said it offered Beermann 100% credit on the travel insurance premiums he paid.
The family-owned land and cruising tours company said Beermann cannot represent a nationwide class alleging violation of CUTPA because he is a Florida resident never injured in Connecticut. The act states clearly that only "residents of this state or injured in this state" can represent or participate in a CUTPA class action, Tauck said.
Tauck contended that Beermann has acknowledged in his complaint that Connecticut law governs this dispute, so his claims alleging Tauk violated Florida consumer protection laws also fail.
Additionally, Beerman falls short in showing that Tauck misled travelers with negligent misrepresentation because he could not allege that Tauk had a duty to disclose information, the company said. Tauck does not have such duty because there were only commercial relationships between Tauck and its customers, it said.
"One only assumes a duty to disclose material information where they have invited 'a closer degree of trust and reliance than in the ordinary business relationship,'" Tauck said. The class representative's omission-based misrepresentation claim fails because "action based on omission arises only if the defendant had a duty to disclose the omitted information," it added.
Beermann's statutory-theft claim also fails because he did not possess any asset that Tauck allegedly stole, and he never alleged that Tauck had any intention to conduct theft, Tauck said. The court should also reject the traveler's request for declaratory relief "because it inappropriately seeks relief on events that have already occurred [and] does not state an adequate claim for relief," the company added.
Counsel for the parties could not be immediately reached for comment.
Beermann is represented by Brian M. Hogan, Jonathan Marc Jagher, Michael J. Freed, and Robert Wozniak Jr. of Freed Kanner London & Millen and Jonathan M. Shapiro of Aeton Law Partners LLP
Tauck is represented by Alex Mario Gonzalez, Israel J. Encinosa, and Anthony Jose Sirven of Holland & Knight LLP and Jeffrey L. Ment of The Ment Law Group LLC.
--Editing by Alyssa Miller.
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