The COVID-19 pandemic cost hundreds of thousands of lives, closed schools, turned millions of employees into remote workers, and raised the great mask debate in the U.S. It also provided opportunities for individuals to file lawsuits against various companies forced to close by government shut-down orders, including ski resorts.
The National Ski Areas Association estimates the cost of the shut-down to the ski industry will be $2 billion. At the same time, plaintiffs filed lawsuits against the popular ski areas in Vail and Alterra. The lawsuits revolve around the ski resorts closing without issuing refunds to season pass holders.
The following provides a bit of background on the ski resort lawsuits as well as the current status.
Vail Resorts Lawsuit
April 10, 2020. A class action lawsuit was filed against Vail Resorts in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The lead plaintiff, Brian Hunt, is suing on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated. The plaintiff’s claim is based on the fact that the resort made the decision to close all of its ski resort properties throughout the U.S. and to retain all the monies from season passes.
The defendant is Vail Corporation, a Colorado corporation, that operates 34 ski resorts, many of which have substantial business ties to the state of California. The lawsuit alleges that the defendant violated the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act, the California Unfair Competition Law, and California's False Advertising Law. In addition, plaintiffs seek redress from the defendant on the legal theories of breach of express warranty, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, unjust enrichment, money had and received, conversion, and breach of contract. The plaintiff demands relief in the form of compensatory and punitive damages as determined by the jury, prejudgment interest, restitution, and other equitable relief. The filing includes a demand for a jury trial.
May 21, 2020. The Hunt v. Vail Corporation plaintiffs informed the court they are withdrawing the lawsuit against the Vail Corporation, but not against the insurance companies who refused to honor the season pass policies. Hunt amended his complaint to drop the Vail Corporation and add Vail Resort Management and the various insurance companies involved in the season pass policies.
June 16, 2020. Additional class action lawsuits made their way to court against Vail with respect to its Season and EpicPass ticket holders who were not given extended time to use their passes and/or were denied refunds. The various class actions (including the Amended Complaint Hunt filed against Vail Resort Management) requested that the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidate the related class action cases appearing in the motion as In Re: National Ski Pass Litigation in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. The motion requested the JPML transfer the consolidated cases as MDL 2955 from Colorado to the Eastern District of Arkansas.
On August 18, 2020, the JPML issued an order for a virtual hearing on September 24, 2020. The hearing was held as scheduled, and the plaintiffs await the JPML’s decision.
The Alterra Lawsuit
April 14, 2020. Robert Kramer, a California resident, filed a class action suit against Alterra Mountain Co. for retaining revenue from the Ikon Pass sales after the ski resorts were closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Attorneys for lead plaintiff, Kramer, said that even though the ski resorts were closed by order of the Governor, the resorts still owed the pass holders a refund for the unused ticket prices. According to the complaint, the unrefunded ticket prices amount to tens of millions of dollars in unjust enrichment.
The defendant in the case is Alterra Mountain Company, a Delaware Corporation, that owns many ski resorts based in Colorado, California, and other areas in the U.S. The lawsuit also names Ikon Mountain Pass, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alterra Mountain Company.
The Alterra lawsuit claims are based on breaches of:
- Implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing
- Unjust enrichment
- Express warranty
The complaint demands a jury trial as well as damages, rescission, disgorgement and other equitable relief, attorneys fees and any other relief the court deems reasonable.
April 29, 2020. Plaintiffs in the case against Alterra asked the JPML to consolidate ten cases as MDL 2943 and transfer them to the District of Colorado.
May 1, 2020. JPML assigned MDL 2943 to Alterra cases and accepted the motion for filing.
May 18, 2020. U.S. District Court in Colorado ordered related class action cases against Alterra consolidated on its docket.
June 3, 2020. The clerk of the JPML panel signed an order stating that MDL 2943 is closed.
June 15, 2020. As of this date, the U.S. District Court in Colorado ordered consolidation of eight Alterra ski-pass cases for pre-trial purposes. The Court continued to consolidate cases in July.
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