PEABODY – A judge is examining whether an online travel agency should be held responsible for a botched vacation trip for a Peabody man who uses a wheelchair.
Thomas Muxie was forced to return home earlier after his trip to Cancun in 2017 because the hotel was not accessible to people with disabilities, despite assurances from the CheapCaribbean travel agency that it could accommodate wheelchairs , according to a complaint filed in Peabody District Court.
The company does not dispute these facts. But during an online hearing last week, an attorney for the company asked Judge James Barretto to dismiss the case on a number of other grounds, including the fact that CheapCaribbean cannot be sued in Massachusetts. because the online company does not have a physical location in the state.
“It’s an Internet travel company,” said attorney Tracy Waugh. “The law does not require that anyone providing a service such as CheapCaribbean be subject to the jurisdiction of any state in which they do business.”
Waugh said any legal action against the company should be filed in Pennsylvania, where the company is based. She said those terms were set out in the Terms and Conditions section of the company’s website and that Muxie agreed to them over the phone when he booked her trip.
But Muxie’s attorney, Kevin Handly, and his client never saw the terms and conditions, which he said were “buried” on the company’s website. He stated that CheapCaribbean is registered as an online travel company in Massachusetts and does business with consumers in Massachusetts.
In doing so, Handly said, “The defendant has submitted to the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts courts.”
Waugh also said the case should be dismissed because Muxie had waited too long to file a lawsuit based on the statute of limitations for disability discrimination claims, and it should have been taken to court. superior court, not a district court. Handly disputed these two points.
According to the lawsuit, Muxie, who has been using a wheelchair since suffering a spinal cord injury in 1986, spent two painful nights in the resort in Cancun, Mexico, without being able to use the toilet or shower due to lack of accessibility. He cut his six days vacation short and went home.
Muxie is seeking full reimbursement, as well as compensation for “physical pain and suffering, public humiliation, embarrassment and emotional distress,” 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 assurances”.
CheapCaribbean offered Muxie $ 7,535 without apology, and only if he agreed not to sue, according to the lawsuit.
Barretto said he would issue a written decision within six weeks and schedule a hearing for March 25.
Editor-in-Chief Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.