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Weidenhamer v. Expedia, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

March 23, 2015

JEFFREY D. WEIDENHAMER, Plaintiff,
v.
EXPEDIA, INC., Defendant.

ORDER

RICHARD A. JONES, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on a motion to dismiss (Dkt. # 11) from Defendant Expedia, Inc., along with Plaintiff's motion to extend the class certification deadline (Dkt. # 19) and Plaintiff's motion to compel discovery (Dkt. # 23). For the reasons stated herein, the court DENIES the motion to dismiss and the motion to extend the class certification deadline. The court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Plaintiff's motion to compel. Part III.B of this order includes specific orders as to the parties' discovery disputes, including an order with which Expedia must comply to avoid sanctions.

II. BACKGROUND

The court describes the facts as Plaintiff Jeffrey Weidenhamer alleges them in his complaint. In April 2014, he visited the Expedia website to purchase airfares for his family of four. He could not complete the purchases on the website. A pop-up window appeared with this message:

It looks like we have an issue with the site. We're working to fix this as soon as possible. Here are some ways to find your perfect trip in the meantime: Download the Award-Winning Expedia App: Our app may be available even if the site is not. With it, you can book flights and hotels or check all your Expedia itineraries from anywhere. The app won the People's Voice Webby Award and we think you'll like it too. To say thank you for your patience, we'll also give you 5% OFF YOUR APP PURCHASE with the code MOBILEGO.

Mr. Weidenhamer did as the pop-up window suggested. He downloaded the app to his tablet computer and purchased four tickets. He did not receive a 5% discount.

Mr. Weidenhamer paid $398.30 for each of his tickets, for a total of $1593.20. When the app displayed his fares for purchase, it advised him that the airline "may" charge a fee for checked baggage. When he clicked on a hyperlink for "additional fees, " Expedia informed him that for the airline he chose, there would be no charge for each passenger's first checked bag. When Mr. Weidenhamer arrived at the airport to take his flights, the airline informed him that fees applied to his family's first checked bags. Mr. Weidenhamer and his family paid about $650 for their first checked bags.

In May 2014, Mr. Weidenhamer complained to Expedia. He demanded redress including a credit equivalent to 5% of his family's total airfare to account for the discount he did not receive, changes to the Expedia website to correctly disclose when fares do not include baggage fees along with documentation of those changes, and a credit for $650 to account for the baggage fees that Expedia did not disclose.

Expedia refused all of Mr. Weidenhamer's requests. It informed Mr. Weidenhamer that the 5% discount it had promoted did not apply to multiple-ticket purchases like the one he made. It said nothing about his requests for changes to the website, documentation of those changes, or a credit to account for the baggage charges.

Mr. Weidenhamer, who lives in Ohio, contacted that state's Attorney General to relay his complaints about Expedia. When the Attorney General contacted Expedia to inquire about the dispute, Expedia chose to refund $79.66 (5% of the total that Mr. Weidenhamer paid to Expedia) to Mr. Weidenhamer's credit card. Expedia did nothing to respond to Mr. Weidenhamer's request for changes to the website, documentation of the changes, or his request for a refund of the baggage fees he paid.

Mr. Weidenhamer sued Expedia, seeking not only damages on his own behalf, but damages and injunctive relief on behalf of a nationwide class of Expedia customers. He invoked Washington's Consumer Protection Act (RCW Ch. 19.86, "CPA"), the Washington Sellers of Travel Act (RCW Ch. 19.138, "WSTA"), and also claimed unjust enrichment. He has not yet moved to certify a class. The court's scheduling order required him to do so by March 26, but the court extended that deadline until April 16 to give it additional time to rule on the pending motions.

Expedia has asked to dismiss Mr. Weidenhamer's claims to the extent they focus on the 5% discount. According to Expedia, its refund of 5% of Mr. Weidenhamer's airfare means that there is no "Case" or "Controversy" within the meaning of Article III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, and that the court therefore lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Expedia contends that even if the court has subject matter jurisdiction, Mr. Weidenhamer has not stated any claim based on the denial of the 5% discount because he has suffered no injury. It also asserts that the complaint establishes that its 5% refund was an accord and satisfaction. Expedia refers to the aspects of Mr. Weidenhamer's suit concerning the 5% discount as the "app claim, " and the court will follow its lead. The motion to dismiss does not target any other aspect of this lawsuit.

While the motion to dismiss was pending, Mr. Weidenhamer filed a motion requesting that the court continue by 90 days the deadline for filing a motion to certify a class. A few days later, he filed a motion to compel discovery responses, using the joint motion procedure described at Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 37(a)(2).

The court now considers all ...


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