Case closed: Last defendant Orbitz dismissed by Fairview Heights

Steve Korris Apr. 1, 2009, 10:39am


EAST ST. LOUIS - Fairview Heights has abandoned a federal suit that would have held online travel companies liable for municipal taxes on rooms they booked.

Fairview Heights moved on March 27 to dismiss Orbitz, the last defendant in a suit the city originally proposed to lead as a class action on behalf of 50 Illinois cities.

U.S. District Judge David Herndon dismissed Orbitz on March 30, a day before the anniversary of his decision declaring the case unmanageable as a class action.

Like previous motions dismissing other companies, this one called for the parties to bear their own costs but said nothing about any payment to the city.

The Lakin Law Firm of Wood River sued travel companies on behalf of the city in St. Clair County circuit court in 2005.

The suit sought back taxes for every Illinois city with a room tax except Chicago.

Lakin class action partner Paul Weiss of Chicago, Fairview Heights city attorney Kevin Hoerner, and Karl Barth of Bellevue, Wash., also represented the city.

In 2007, after Brad Lakin fired class action lawyer Richard Burke and ended his partnership with Weiss, Lakin dropped the case and left Burke and Weiss in charge.

Herndon, however, crushed their hopes for a big settlement or judgment.

He ruled that the city couldn't lead a class action because it didn't belong to the class.

The class definition included cities that imposed occupation taxes on rooms but not those that imposed use taxes, and Fairview Heights imposed a use tax.

He rejected a new definition that Burke offered in a last minute reply brief.

"At this point, the class definition should not be a moving target," Herndon wrote.

He added that he wouldn't have certified a class action anyway, due to differences among city ordinances.

Two months later the city dismissed Travelocity.

Earlier this year the city dismissed Priceline, Lowest Fare,
Travelweb, Expedia, Hotwire,, and Travelnow.

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