PEABODY – Thomas Muxie is a paraplegic who has been using a wheelchair since he suffered a spinal cord injury in 1986. So when the Peabody resident booked a vacation at a Cancun resort in 2017, he asked to the travel agency the assurance that its accommodation would be accessible to disabled people.
Muxie said a company sales rep repeatedly told him this would be the case. But according to a lawsuit filed in Peabody District Court, when Muxie arrived at the resort in Mexico, he discovered there was no toilet he could access in his wheelchair.
The lawsuit says Muxie spent two painful nights at the resort without being able to use the toilet or shower before cutting his vacation short and heading home. He is now suing the travel agency to get his money back and, according to his lawsuit, to prevent the same from happening to someone else. A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 20 at Peabody District Court.
According to the lawsuit, Muxie purchased a six-day all-inclusive vacation package for himself and a friend at the Grand Oasis Cancun resort through a company called CheapCaribbean, the same company they had used for a Caribbean vacation. in 2013.
The resort pictured on the company’s website was described as “HP,” for disabled people, according to the lawsuit. Muxie also said he had received repeated assurances from a CheapCaribbean sales agent over the phone that the resort was wheelchair accessible and would have a roll-in shower.
But when Muxie arrived at the complex, he discovered “to his dismay” that there was no toilet he could access, according to the lawsuit. A hotel agent told him he would be transferred to another wheelchair accessible resort in Cancun. But when the agent said the next day that he couldn’t find one and suggested that Muxie look for one himself, Muxie returned home the next day.
“Without essential sanitation, food or access to a shower, Mr. Muxie endured increasing physical distress, as well as acute emotional distress, humiliation and embarrassment,” the lawsuit said.
Muxie sought reimbursement and compensation for the physical and emotional injuries, but CheapCaribbean would only reimburse part of the $ 1,450 cost of the trip, according to the lawsuit.
The company eventually offered a full refund, but on condition that Muxie signs a nondisclosure agreement and agrees not to prosecute. He declined this offer and filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and filed a complaint on December 31, 2019.
Muxie is seeking full reimbursement, as well as compensation for his “physical pain and suffering, public humiliation, embarrassment and emotional distress, and attorney’s fees,” for a total of $ 41,534. He also calls for a written apology and action from the company to ensure that it never again sells a travel package “on the basis of bogus disability accessibility assurances.”
CheapCaribbean offered $ 7,535 without an apology, and only if it agreed not to sue, according to the lawsuit. Muxie rejected this offer.
Lawyers for CheapCaribbean, now known as ALG Vacations Corp., filed a motion to dismiss the case. The company says Massachusetts courts do not have jurisdiction and the case can only be heard in Pennsylvania, where the company is based.
These terms were set out in the Terms and Conditions section of its website, according to the company. And that indicates that Muxie agreed to these terms and conditions over the phone when he booked his trip.
Muxie’s lawsuit, however, says those terms were “buried” at the bottom of the company’s website and he never saw them. The lawsuit says the case will test the limits to which the Internet company’s “browswrap” agreements can be enforced against consumers.
An ALG Vacations lawyer did not return a message seeking comment.
Editor-in-Chief Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.