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Legal Victory for Travelers United as Federal Judge Remands Lawsuit Against Hilton to State Court

Date Published
Jun 11, 2024

June 10, 2024. In a significant legal development, a D.C. federal judge has ruled in favor of Travelers United, a traveler advocacy group, by remanding their lawsuit against Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. back to state court. The lawsuit alleges that Hilton deceives hotel guests with undisclosed “junk fees” at the end of the booking process. The decision marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing battle against unfair pricing practices in the hospitality industry.

Travelers United attorneys’ Wesley M. Griffith and Peter Silva expressed their approval of the remand decision. “The remand decision is a reminder that the CPPA’s requirements are distinct from those of Article III, and that the knee-jerk removal of these actions to federal court by defendants needs to stop.”

Griffith and Silva added, “With the question of which court to proceed in now resolved, we look forward to getting back to the important work of litigating this case on the merits. Our client, Travelers United, is dedicated to seeing these unlawful junk fee practices stopped and ensuring that the junk fees are fully refunded to Hilton’s customers, among other remedies authorized by the CPPA.”

U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell determined that Travelers United Inc. lacks both associational and organizational standing to sue on behalf of its members in federal court. The court noted in the opinion that this was a “through-the-looking-glass-situation” where “defendant is foisting organizational or associational standing on an organization that has not pled that and does not seek that.” Consequently, the litigation must proceed in D.C. Superior Court, rejecting Hilton’s attempt to keep the case in federal jurisdiction. Judge Howell further denied Hilton’s request for discovery into the jurisdiction question as a further attempt to apply organizational or associational standing on Travelers United.

The lawsuit, initially filed in D.C. Superior Court in September, accuses Hilton of failing to disclose the full costs of its hotel rooms upfront, in violation of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA). Instead, the company allegedly advertises lower room rates, adding significant fees—sometimes in excess of $35 per day—only at the final stages of booking. These fees, plaintiffs argue, mislead customers and give Hilton an unfair competitive advantage over hotels that transparently advertise their rates.

Travelers United is represented by attorneys Hassan Zavareei, Peter Silva, Wesley M. Griffith, and Leora Friedman of the public interest law firm Tycko & Zavareei LLP. They are supported by paralegal Emma Bass.

The case is Travelers United Inc. v. Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. et al., Case No.: 1:23-cv-03584, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

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