Travel agent John Mathews may have a meritorious claim
against a Virginia hotel for breaching a contract to provide food for a large
group of tourists. It's hard to tell, though, when he clutters his complaint
with counts for defamation, invasion of privacy, tortious
interference, and intentional
infliction of emotional distress, and fails to include a count for breach
of contract. This latest complaint represents Mr. Mathews' fourth attempt to
present his case to a federal court in Pennsylvania. Had he opted to file a
simple breach-of-contract action in Virginia's general district court instead,
he might have secured a judgment by now.
The allegations go as follows. Mr. Mathews booked a
"Winter Get Away Tour" with the Westin hotel at Washington Dulles in
2012. He alleges he planned the event with the hotel sales manager and
estimated there would be 150 guests with the tour. He claims he emphasized that
this was only an estimate and he would furnish a final number later.
When 174 people signed up for the getaway (or rather, the
"get away"), the hotel was not able to feed everyone, as the head
chef apparently wasn't notified of the final number. On both Saturday and
Sunday nights, some guests went without meals and an unlimited, all-you-can-eat
buffet was converted to a limited, one-serving one. Mathews had advertised the
tour to include two buffet dinners and two buffet breakfasts and claims he had
to reimburse many guests due to the missed or reduced meals.
Mathews doesn't allege breach of contract, but alleges
the hotel "Sale Manager" defamed him by calling him a
"dishonorable person," which "almost incited a riot." He
alleges the defendants' actions forced him to reimburse $3,000 to certain
guests and caused him to suffer an additional $4,000 loss because some guests
refused to pay their balances owed. For the alleged defamation, he claims at
least $450,000. As mentioned above, he also alleges a number of other torts.
If Mr. Mathews contends the hotel breached an agreement
to provide sufficient food for 174 people, he should have included a breach
of contract claim. Different policy considerations distinguish the law of
torts from the law of contracts, and there are rules against trying to recover
pain-and-suffering type damages when all you've suffered are disappointed economic
expectations. If the case is really about false statements made by an agent of
the hotel and not a contractual breach, more will be required than a vague
statement about being "dishonorable."
Read the rest of the article at the Virginia
Defamation Law Blog.
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