New Order Issued in Hotel Class Action Lawsuit – Action Needed

July 10, 2012

A number of Georgia’s cities and counties collect hotel-motel taxes on charges  made for rooms, lodging or accommodations furnished by hotels, motels, inns, lodges, tourist camps or campgrounds. The excise tax can be used for the purposes of promoting tourism, tradeshows and conventions amongst other requirements of state law.

On June 5, 2012, United States District Court Judge Harold L. Murphy preliminarily approved a partial settlement in the class action excise tax case brought by the City of Rome, Hart County, and other cities and counties against the online travel companies, such as Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline and Orbitz. The tax payments will be from May 16, 2011 and going forward.

On July 9, 2012, Judge Murphy issued another order in the class action granting breakage to Plaintiffs from May 16, 2011 which means the amount of the settlement will increase slightly. The amount of the increase cannot be estimated yet but the Defendant online travel companies have been ordered by the court to report the amounts to the court and to the Plaintiffs.

In the latest order the federal court held that in the breakage transactions the OTCs failed to remit any taxes to the Plaintiffs despite collecting fees from customers that were, at least in part, labeled as such. The court held that the failure to remit any taxes to the Plaintiffs showed that the OTCs actually collected excess taxes in the breakage transactions.

Cities are encouraged to review the case history with their legal counsel and contact class counsel regarding joining in the settlement.

If your city elects to remain a member of the Class and participate in the partial settlement agreement, to receive benefits it must provide the following information to Class Counsel on or before 60 days of Final Approval of the Settlement. The Court set a Class Action Fairness Hearing for August 16, and ordered that any city or county who did not wish to participate must opt out by August 9.
  1. A list, (updated and current) with the name and physical address, of each licensed hotel/motel operating within your jurisdiction that is subject to hotel taxes from May, 2011 to the present;
  2. The hotel/motel tax rate(s), and local sales tax rate(s), if any, from May, 2011 to the present for your jurisdiction; and
  3. Any subsequent changes in the foregoing information must also be submitted to Class Counsel.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact Andy Davis, class notice administrator/class counsel, or Walter Gordon, class counsel. Their contact information is below.

Please review this information with your city attorney as soon as possible.

Contact Information

J. Anderson Davis, Esq.
Brinson, Askew, Berry, Seigler,Richardson & Davis, LLP
Post Office Box 5007
Rome, Georgia 30162-5007
(706) 291-8853

Walter J. Gordon, Esq.
The Gordon Law Firm
County Attorney, Hart County, Ga.
P.O. Box 870
Hartwell, Georgia 30643