Attorneys say multidistrict litigation would result in efficiencies, uniform standards
HOUSTON – A motion filed with the federal Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is seeking consolidation of the growing number of class action lawsuits being filed by individuals claiming that online vacation rental company Vrbo’s exclusive travel insurance provider has unlawfully denied their requests for reimbursement of fees paid for reservations that were later cancelled.
The filing notes that class action lawsuits have been filed by plaintiffs in Texas, Kansas, South Carolina, California, Ohio, Illinois and New York alleging similar claims against a common insurance provider, CSA Travel Protection, the American affiliate of Italy-based Assicurazioni Generali Group.
While varying in certain details, the lawsuits allege that the insurer has refused to honor its policies and refund thousands of dollars in properly cancelled bookings initially made on the Vrbo website. Typically those refund requests were due to government-imposed travel restrictions or personal health complications due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuits all seek class action status to represent every affected individual across the nation.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs are requesting centralizing the lawsuits in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas, the only federal judicial district in which multiple actions are pending. According to the filing, consolidating the actions would conserve resources and reduce litigation costs for all parties.
“Due to the number of cases spread across at least eight jurisdictions indicates that, absent centralization, it may be essentially unavoidable that all parties will be subject to inconsistent pretrial rulings,” the filing states. “Plaintiff has reasonable belief that there are thousands of potential members in the Class.”
The filing also notes recent actions of the MDL panel that both affirmed and denied case consolidation based on the number of common insurance carriers that were parties to litigation. The panel upheld a similar MDL request against the StubHub ticketing website over refund denials to consumers, while ruling in another matter that some COVID-19 business interruption claims should not be consolidated as dozens of different insurance carriers were listed as defendants.
“We are definitely seeing a trend in the travel and vacation rental insurance industry to deny all Covid-19 related cancellation claims, with little or no investigation or review of the claims at all.” says Derek Potts of the Potts Law Firm’s Houston office, who filed the motion with the MDL panel. “In this case, the allegations are basically the same, against one common defendant with the same insurance policy in every case, so we believe that consolidation in the Eastern District is both practical and proper under the law.”
The motion is In Re: Generali COVID-19 Related Travel Insurance Litigation. The next Joint Panel hearing is scheduled for September 24, 2020 in Birmingham, Alabama.