Judge throws YTB complaint out of court

By Nadine Godwin

A federal judge tossed out a complaint filed last week by former YTB affiliates against YTB, calling the 39-page document "an ungainly monster" that was unresponsive to the court's previous ruling in the case.

Nearly a year ago, a number of former referring travel agents (RTAs) sued YTB in a class action, charging that the multilevel-marketing travel company was operating an illegal pyramid scheme. They brought their case under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (ICFA), asserting they had been victims of deceptive business practices.

However, in early June, Judge G. Patrick Murphy in the U.S. District Court for Southern Illinois dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that non-residents of Illinois could not pursue the matter under Illinois law.

As to the single Illinois plaintiff, John Stull, he dismissed the case because the dispute was between two businesses, an RTA and YTB. However, he offered Stull the option to refile to make a clearer claim for how his complaint "implicates consumer protection concerns."

However, when refiling on July 15, the plaintiffs, by adding new arguments and more defendants, attempted again to make the case that all plaintiffs could assert claims under the Illinois law.

Deeming the refiled complaint an overwritten document, Judge Murphy said that "a good deal of the flabbiness in the sprawling pleading before the court consists of paragraphs of legal argument challenging the court's earlier dismissal of the ICFA claim of the non-Illinois plaintiffs."

However, he warned, plaintiffs and their attorneys should not treat the court's rulings "as mere first drafts, subject to revision and reconsideration at a litigant's pleasure."

The judge told the plaintiffs that if they wished to refile the complaint in its current form, with its full list of plaintiffs, they needed the court's permission to do so, but he warned that his previous ruling "establishes the law of the case, from which the court is unlikely to depart absent a showing of compelling reasons to do so."

The plaintiffs also apparently still have the option to refile the case on behalf of the sole Illinois resident.

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