$1.85 million verdict against rental car company

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In this week’s article, we examine the case of State of Arizona, ex rel Mark Brnovich v. Dennis Saban et al, Case No: CV2014-005556 JCC (Ariz. Super. (2/14/2018)). As noted in a press release (azag.gov/oress-release (2/14/2018)) “Attorney General Mark Brnovich is proud to announce a $1.85 million verdict in a consumer fraud lawsuit filed against Dennis N. Saban and his companies, Phoenix Car Rental and Saban’s Rent-A-Car. After a 5-week trial, a judge found Saban and his car rental companies must pay $1.85 million for violating Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. Of the $1.85 million, nearly $1 million will go to consumers who were charged unlawful fees during car rental transactions from 2009 to 2016. This is one of the largest consumer fraud trial verdicts the Arizona Attorney General’s Office has ever obtained…In 2014, the Attorney General’s Office filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against Saban and his car rental companies. An undercover investigation found consumers were improperly charged fees by Phoenix Car Rental and Saban’s ent-A-Car. An undercover investigator was promised a rental vehicle for $129 a week, a rate also advertised on the company website. After additional fees and taxes, the total rental was more than $250. The agent was denied a copy of the rental agreement and falsely told he would be arrested if he left the Phoenix area because of specially coded license plates. An employee also informed the investigator that an additional charge was the ‘county tax’ when in fact it was a surcharge imposed by Saban’s. Upon inspection, investigators also discovered that although the rental car’s odometer displayed 99,840 miles, he vehicle’s actual mileage was 199,840 miles. Multiple consumers testified at trial that they were subjected to similar practices by Saban’s. The ruling also requires the defendant to provide consumers with a good faith estimate. The defendant is prohibited from inaccurately advertising the condition or rental rates of vehicles, renting any vehicle without regularly scheduled maintenance, from altering the odometer and altering or disengaging a vehicle’s warning lights”.

Terror Targets Update

Central African Republic

In CAR violence divides communities in Bria, travelwirenews (2/28/2018) it was noted that “Fighting in the Central African Republic (CAR) between Muslim and Christian armed groups has forced more than a million people from their homes. And more than two million, that is half of the population, need humanitarian aid”.

Terrorist “Teacher” Found Guilty

In Terrorist ‘Teacher’ found guilty of grooming ‘army of children’ to attack London landmarks, travelwirenews.cpm (3/2/2018) it was noted that “A self-styled teacher and supporter of Islamic State has been found guilty of trying to create an ‘army of children’ more than a hundred-strong to help carry out a wave of terrorist attacks across London. The defendant, 25-year-old Ulmar Haque was convicted of preparing acts of terrorism between March 25 and May 18 last year. Among his intended targets were iconic British landmarks including Big Ben, the Queen’s Guard and Heathrow Airport”.

Stoned To Death In Afghanistan

In Man stoned to death for adultery by thriving ISIS cell in Afghanistan, travelwirenews.co (3/2/2018) it was noted that “Brutal images emerged online showing a crowd stoning a man to death for alleged adultery in eastern Afghanistan. It comes as Islamic State appears to be reemerging while the US and allies have shifted their focus to the Taliban”.

Rann, Nigeria

In Suspected Boko Haram attack kills air workers in Nigeria, travelwirenews (3/2/2018) it was noted that “At least three aid workers and eight members of the security forces were killed in a suspected Boko Haram attack on a military base in northeastern Nigeria, A number of fighters attacked the base in the town of Rann in Borno state late on Thursday but were pushed back by armed forces after a gunfight”.

Australian “Bucket List” Murder

In British woman who killed teen to tick murder off ‘bucket list’ jailed for life in Australia, travelwirenews (2/28/2018) it was noted “A British woman who stabbed an autistic teenager to death has been jailed for life in Australia. The vicious murder made Jemma Lilley, 26, feel ‘euphoric’ the court heard. Lilley, originally from Lincolnshire, killed 18-year old Aaron Pajich at her home in Perth, Australia, to tick offer her ‘bucket list’, the prosecuting claimed”.

Embassy Staff In Cuba Downsized

In US downsizes Cuba embassy for good amid ‘sonic attack’ mystery, travelwirenews (3/3/2018) it was noted that “The US will keep the staff numbers at its embassy at Havana at the minimum level after an emergency departure, ordered in September expires. The step was taken after 21 staff members suffered from a so far unexplained ailment”.

Security At The Duomo Upgraded

In Italy’s main cathedral fortifies security. travelwirenews (3/3/2018) it was noted that “The major cathedral of Florence in Italy, the Duomo, has been equipped with metal detectors in each of its four entrances. This measure is part of a security plan of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, the building that takes care of the Cathedral, the Baptistery, Giotts’s Bell Tower and its museum”.

Russian Firefighters Save Cat

In Heroic Russian firefighters revive ‘lifeless’ cat after tragic apartment fire, travelwirenews (2/28/2018) it was noted “Heartrending footage of dedicated firefighters performing CPR on a cat while its frantic owner looks on has been captured by Ruptly video crew. The episode occurred after a fire in Volvograd, Russia, which claimed three lives. The emergency responders remain remarkably calm and professional as they carry out chest compressions and administer oxygen to the seemingly lifeless cat”. Bravo.

Russian Airplane Passengers Behave, Please

In Worst passenger ever uses airplane vents to dry underwear, travelwirenews (3/2/2018) it was noted that “In all of the possible violations of airline etiquette, this may take the cake. A passenger on a plane in Russia caught a woman drying what appears to be children’s underwear over the plane’s vents. According to the video’s description, she held the underwear up to the vents for about 20 minutes…’The stewardesses just laughed’”.

Brazil’s Yellow Fever Outbreak

In Darlington & McNeil, Yellow Fever Circles Brazil’s Hugh Cities, nytimes (3/5/2018) it was noted that “Brazil is suffering its worst outbreak of yellow fever in decades. The virus which kills 3 percent to 8 percent of those who are infected is now circling the megacities of Rio de Janeiro and San Paulo, threatening to become this country’s first-blown urban epidemic since 1942″.

How To Ditch Your Luggage

In Rosenbloom, Check-in Time Hours Away? Hot to Ditch Those Annoying Bags, nytimes (3/2/2018) it was noted that “You’re familiar with the predicament: You’ve got a few hours before you can check into your vacation rental, or before you leave for your flight, and you want to do some sightseeing-but that means slogging along crowded sidewalks with your (undoubtedly overstuffed) luggage in tow. Or does it? Increasingly, you may not only store your bags for a couple of hours at the usual places (airports, train stations, luggage storage companies) but also with a surprising variety of businesses-delis, dry cleaners, clothing boutiques, wine shops, eyebrow-shaping salons-for less than the cost of a couple of Starbucks lattes”.

Delta Sued Over 2015 Skid

In Stempel, Delta sued by Port Authority over 2015 skid at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, reuters (2/27/2018) it was noted that “The complaint seeks $750,047 for property damage and other costs that allegedly occurred when Flight 1086 veered off Runway 13 after touchdown, struck a fence and came to rest on an embankment, just short of plunging into frigid Flushing Bay. According to the Port Authority, which operates the airport, the incident ‘was caused solely by the negligence of Delta and its agents, including the pilot of the MD-88 aircraft”

Chaotic Plane Escape Lawsuit

In Meisel, American Airlines, Boeing Sued For Chaotic Plane Escape, law360 (2/28/2018) it was noted that “An Indiana woman who was a passenger aboard an American Airlines flight when one of the plane’s engines caught fire while it was on a Chicago airport runway sued the airline and plane manufacturer…alleging the flight attendants made an already chaotic situation worse”. See also: Levin, Escape Chaos on Fiery American Airlines Jet Detailed by NTSB, bloomberg (7/6/2017) it was noted that “Panicked passengers on an America Airlines widebody aircraft in Chicago last October demanded to evacuate as a massive fire engulfed the right wing and were blasted by exhaust from an engine that pilots hadn’t shut down. The U.S. (NTSB) released more than 500 pages of investigative reports…detailing how a metallurgical flaw led to a violent right engine failure, a fire that raged outside the plane and the ensuing evacuation. Flight attendants described a chaotic scene as they at first tried to prevent passengers from fleeing because the plane’s left engine was still operating and was buffeting two of the three escape slides. They relented after smoke began filing the cabin, and some of the passengers were blown to the tarmac by the blast of air from the working engine while they attempted to evacuate, according to the investigative reports…Leaking fuel triggered a massive fireball on the right of the plane as passengers evacuated out the other side. Out of 170 people aboard, one person suffered a serious injury and 18 had minor injuries, according to NTSB”.

Stoned To Death In Afghanistan

In Man stoned to death for adultery by thriving ISIS cell in Afghanistan, travelwirenews.co (3/2/2018) it was noted that “Brutal images emerged online showing a crowd stoning a man to death for alleged adultery in eastern Afghanistan. It comes as Islamic State appears to be reemerging while the US and allies have shifted their focus to the Taliban”.

Big Fire In Baku

In Azerbaijan: Baku rehab centre hit by deadly fire, travelwirenews (3/2/2018) it was noted that “At least 28 people have died in a fire in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, according to a health ministry official. Four others were wounded in the blaze, which broke out on Friday in a drug treatment centre…Emergency services managed to extinguish the fire at the Republican Narcology Dispensary on Friday morning”.

Equifax Hacking Expands

In Another 2.4 million Equifax consumers have data stolen in massive leak, travelwirenews (3/1/2018) it was noted that “Credit score provider Equifax has identified another 2.4 million of its US customers who had their names and partial driver’s license information stolen in a massive data breach last year. This adds to 145.5 million Americans who are known to have had their social security numbers compromised”.

No Murderous Selfies, Please

In Murderer took selfie after stab frenzy so violent, police thought victim was mauled by animal, travelwirenews (3/1/2018) it was noted “An ex-solder has been jailed for life after be brutally slashed a total stranger, and abandoned his body in nearby heartland. The attack was so violent that police initially thought the victim had been mauled by an animal. When handing down the life sentence…Justice Goose QC [Northingham Crown Court] described the 24-year old’s premeditated attack as inflicting ‘savage and brutal’ violence on (a) 83-year-old grandfather”.

Goa’s Beach Shacks

In Goa tourism warns errant shack operators of action, travelwirenews (3/2/2018) it was noted that “Beach shack operators would face stringent action is they violated the rules…The minister was reacting to complaints by locals in the North Goa beach belt that shacks remain open beyond the permitted time, late into the night. The complaints have come mostly from Baga-Sinqurim area, considered a night tourism hotspot”.

Non-New Yorkers Pay Up, Please

In Pogrebin, Prepared for Bumps, the Met Starts Charging Non-New Yorkers, nytimes (3/1/2017) it was noted that “The museum has gone to great lengths to prepare for Day 1 of its momentous change, from a 50-year policy of ‘pay what you wish’ announced in January…Some out-of-state visitors on Thursday were taken aback by the new mandatory admission…Before the fee went into effect…The proportion of museumgoers who pay a ‘suggested’ amount has declined from 63 percent to 17 percent over the last 13 years, even as Met attendance has surged to seven million, from 4.7 million. The new admission charge is aimed at giving the museum an additional, reliable revenue stream of $6 million a year”. See our earlier articles on this subject: Dickerson, When ‘free of charge’ becomes ‘pay what you wish, but you must pay something’, eturbonews (2/26/2015); Dickerson, Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Pay What You Wish” class action-proposed settlement, eturbonnews (1/4/2017).

China’s Women-Only Subway Cars

In Wee & Marchi, China’s Women-Only Subway Cars, Where Men Rush In, nytimes (3/4/2018) it was noted that “In a bid to curb sexual harassment, one city is reserving seats and space for female passengers. The problem: Men are claiming them. In one of China’s biggest cities, the women-only subway cars are full of men…So when the Guangzhou government began reserving cars for female passengers worried about being groped and harassed, they filled up-but not with the intended passengers. ‘Men are totally clueless’”.

Norway’s Trash Filled Fjords

In Hemphill & Libell, Trash in the Fjords? Norway Turns to Drones, nytimes (3/4/2018) it was noted that “Norway’s fjords have long inspired the country’s artists and drawn streams of tourists…But lost in the depths of the fjord in Oslo…is a trove that would please any intrepid archaeologist or Nordic noir sleuth: sunken Viking trinkets, Bullion from Hitler’s prized warship and, possibly, a few victims of homicide. Mostly, though, the fjord is filled with garbage, like unwanted cars. And that has alarmed environmentalists. ‘Not many years ago, a mayor said if you want to get rid of a car, put it on the ice’”.

Don’t Be Afraid Of Snakes, Please

In Bakalar, Afraid of Snakes? Wasps and Dogs Are Deadlier, nytimes (3/5/2018) it was noted that “Beware the snake, the spider and the scorpion. But know this: You are much more likely to be killed by a bee or a dog. Of the 1,610 people killed in encounters with animals between 2008 and 2015, 478 were killed by hornets, wasps and bees, and 272 by dogs, according to a study published in Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. Snakes, spiders and scorpions were responsible for 99 deaths over the eight years”.

Coal Plant For Kenya, Thank You China

In Sengupta, Why Build Kenya’s First Coal Plant? Think China, nytimes (2/27/2018) it was noted that “Across a narrow channel from the historic port town (Lamu, Kenya) where baobabs tower over the forest and tine crabs skitter in and out of the mangroves, Kenya could soon get a its first coal-fired power plant, courtesy of China. The plan’s champions, including to senior Kenyan officials, say the plant will help meet the country’s fast-growing demand for electricity and draw investment. Its critics worry that it will change the area’s fragile marine ecosystem, threaten the livelihoods of fishing communities and pollute the air. The battle over the project, which is frozen pending the outcome of a court case”. Stay tuned.

Ban Diesel Cars, Please

In German court allows cities to ban diesel-run cars, travelwirenews (2/28/2018) it was noted that “Germany’s Federal Administrative Court has approved a ruling that cities can impose bans on driving diesel cars. The measures have been imposed to tackle air pollution. The ruling could have huge ramifications for car makers in Germany, which is Europe’s largest car market”.

Rape In Bangladesh

In Rights group accuse Bangadesh army of covering up sex assault, travelwirenews (2/28/2018) it was noted that “Rallies have been held in Dhaka against the alleged sexual assault of two girls from ethnic minority group…Hundreds of demonstrators descended recently on the streets of the Bangaldeshi capital, Dhaka, and in Rangamati-a small town in the Chittagong Hills Tracts region in the country’s southeast, where the Marma sisters, aged 19 and 14, were allegedly raped by members of security forces”.

Don’t Tax Religion, Please

In Israel suspends taxation legislation for Jerusalem’s churches, travelwirenews (2/27/2018) it was noted that “The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has announced it will reopen its doors after Israel decided to suspend legislation regarding collecting taxes from churches and their properties in Jerusalem. Following international pressure and rising protests from Palestinian Christians”.

Scots Could Save More On Travel

In Scots throw away 122m each year on travel savings online, travelwirenews (2/28/2018) it was noted that “New research shows less than a fifth (18%) of internet shoppers use online codes when booking travel products such as hotels, flights, package holidays, parking and insurance, meaning 82% of holiday-makers are missing out on hundreds of pounds worth of savings. The current average saving from voucher codes per travel product is 72.16 meaning a potential saving of up to 289 if used for all holiday purchases, with particular money-saving potential when it comes to costs incurred before you even take off”.

Travel Law Case Of The Week

In the Saban case the Court entered a Ruling dated February 14, 2018 after a 5-week trial where “The Court finds that the State has met its burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence willful violations of the Consumer Fraud Act by Defendants”.

Relief Requested

“8. The Court enters an award in favor of the State and Defendants…as follows: (a) Restitution…in the total aggregate amount of $839,520.00, for unlawful fees and charges of $17.49 rental contract ($3.00 for PKG, $11.99 for service and cleaning, and $2.50 for s/c) that Saban charged to consumers as unlawful fees and charges over the eight-year time period from 2009 through 2016 on at least 48,000 separate rental transactions together will interest…(b) Restitution…in the total aggregate amount of $155,730.96, for mandatory taxes that Saban charged to consumers on the foregoing unlawful fees and charges together with interest thereon at the statutory rate…”.

Variety Of Other Fees

“9. The Court further finds like that thousands of consumers also were improperly charged for a variety of other fees including, but not limited to: (a) charges for drivers under a specific age, (b) charges for paying with cash or debit card or certain forms of payment, © charges for lack of proof of valid insurance, (d) charges for additional drivers, (e) charges for out-of-state travel, (f) charges for international driver’s licenses, (g) charges for after-hours drop off, and (h) charges for shuttle, taxi or other transportation charges. Due to the difficulty in calculating the number of consumers who were charged each of these fees over the eight-year period…and the fact that the State is not seeking a judgment that include restitution for many of these fees paid by consumers who did not testify at trial, the Court declines to award restitution to the State…for these improper charges. Yet this finding provides further support for the reasonableness of the restitution award for the foregoing improperly-imposed unlawful fees and mandatory taxes thereon”.

Civil Penalties Awarded

“10. The Court enters an award in favor of the State and against Dennis N. Sabin for civil penalties…in the total aggregate amount of $637,500.00 based upon at least 214 willful violations (representing at least 173 violations occurring before the entry of the preliminary injunction at $2,500.00 per violation for a subtotal of $432,500.00, and at least 41 violations occurring after entry of the Preliminary Injunction at $5,000.00 per violation for a subtotal of $205,000.00, together with interest thereon at the statutory rate…”.

Condition Of Vehicles

“15. Saban, Spadafore and the Entity Defendants are prohibited from advertising the condition of their vehicles, unless such advertising includes accurate, up-to-date information about the current condition of the vehicles offered for rent, including, but not limited to, mileage in excess of 100,000 miles and the age of the vehicles, If (the) advertising contains any pictures, photographs or other depictions of vehicles, the pictures, photographs and other depictions of the vehicles must accurately reflect the current op-to-date condition of the vehicles available for rent at the advertised price”.

Cost To Rent Vehicle

“17. (Defendants) are prohibited from advertising the cost to rent any of their vehicles unless that cost accurately reflects the actual cost to rent a vehicle minus applicable government-imposed taxes and fees (the ’base rate’). Any advertised base rate must include all mandatory fees and surcharges and must disclose in clear conspicuous language: (a) Additional taxes will apply to the advertised rate; (b) Additional fees and surcharges may apply; and © Any restrictions that apply on the advertised rate, including, but not limited to, mileage restrictions, geographic restrictions, age restrictions, insurance restrictions, licensing restrictions and form of payment restrictions”.

Shuttle Transportation

“20. (Defendants) are prohibited from telling consumers that the cost of the shuttle or transportation to or from their rental facility will be reimbursed and then charging consumers for transportation”.

Good Faith Estimate

“22. Upon receipt of a telephone inquiry asking about the rental charge for a vehicle (Defendants) must provide a Good Faith Estimate and must affirmatively request from the consumer the Necessary Information to provide a Good Faith Estimate to the consumer. If consumers do not provide the Necessary Information (Defendants) must explain that they cannot provide an estimate of the cost to rent the vehicle without that information. (The Good Faith Estimate includes) (1) Any rates and charges quoted over the phone must include all mandatory fees, regardless of why those fees are charged. If for any reason all mandatory fees and surcharges cannot be accurately included in the quoted rates (Defendants) must affirmatively state that additional fees and/or surcharges apply and affirmatively state the amount of those fees and/or surcharges.(2) If additional restrictions apply to vehicles rented at the quoted price, including, but not limited to, mileage restrictions and geographical restrictions (Defendants) must affirmatively state the specific restrictions that apply to the rental. (3) (Defendants) must inform consumers of any charge that consumers will incur for failing to present satisfactory evidence of full-coverage insurance that transfer to rental vehicles for all drivers of the vehicle being rented and how this charge can be avoided by the consumers”.

Itemized Statements

“27′ (Defendants) will (1) Provide each consumer, at the time a vehicle is rented, with an itemized statement that includes on its front page an itemized Good Faith Estimate, including the base rate, all taxes, all charges that result from consumer requests for Optional Equipment, and all charges that will be applied in the absence of some affirmative action by the consumer, including, but not limited to, fees for services and cleaning, the liability surcharge (if applicable), any charges for the use of a specific form of payment or failure to use a specific form of payment, any charge based upon the age of the renter, any charge for additional drivers, and any charge for use of an international license’ (2) Require each consumer to initial each itemized charge on the Good Faith Estimate; and (3) Provide each consumer, at the time of a vehicle is rented, with photocopies of all documents signed or shown to the consumer at the rental counter”.

Vehicle Return

“28. When a consumer returns a rented vehicle (Defendants) will provide that consumer with an itemized statement that identifies each amount for which payment is required and the total amount, together with a photocopy of the original itemized statement with the Good Faith Estimate provided at the beginning of the rental period”.

Mechanical Problems

“29. If a vehicle rented by a consumer experiences any mechanical problem that prevents the consumer from using it in a reasonable manner (Defendants) will make replacement available…at no cost to the consumer, provided that the consume has not materially breached the rental contract. The consumer than will have the option of accepting the replacement vehicle or canceling the contract and paying a prorated amount for the time period the consumer was able to use the vehicle”.

The author, Thomas A. Dickerson, is a retired Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department of the New York State Supreme Court and has been writing about Travel Law for 42 years including his annually updated law books, Travel Law, Law Journal Press (2018), Litigating International Torts in U.S. Courts, Thomson Reuters WestLaw (2018), Class Actions: The Law of 50 States, Law Journal Press (2018) and over 500 legal articles. For additional travel law news and developments, especially, in the member states of the EU see IFTTA.org.

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