Calif. judge nixes 'League' motion for damages

By Laura Del Rosso

SAN FRANCISCO -- A Superior Court judge in Sacramento dismissed a motion by the Consumer Action League to collect damages from travel agencies it claims broke the law by failing to post California Seller of Travel registration numbers on their Web sites, according to ASTA senior vice president Paul Ruden.

The dismissal came as a result of a filing by the ASTA Litigation Center, which hired the San Francisco law firm of McKenna and Cuneo to represent some 74 travel agency owners who signed up with the center.

They were among more than 250 agencies named in a suit brought by the Consumer Action League in April.

Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster did not dismiss two other claims made by the league, Ruden said.

He said the league asked for an injunction to force agencies to post their registration numbers and to collect attorney's fees for Brian Kindsvater, the Sacramento-area attorney representing the league.

Ruden said the ASTA Litigation Center plans to continue to fight so that those two claims also will be dismissed. He said he could not give details, but hoped that the entire matter will soon be history.

"Let's just say this will be the incredible shrinking legal case," Ruden said.

Ruden said that the league's motion to force the agencies to post their numbers is moot: All the agencies involved in the ASTA center suit have already added those numbers on their sites.

In a separate case, San Francisco attorney Alexander Anolik is representing four travel agencies also named in the suit by the league.

Anolik said that during the recent deposition phase of the case he obtained a stipulation from Kindsvater to drop the claim for damages from the travel agencies.

Anolik said "the big issue now is attorney's fees, which is really what [Kindsvater] is after."

Both ASTA and Anolik, who is ARTA's legal counsel but is handling the case separate from his ARTA duties, have charged that league's suit is frivolous and its main purpose is to force agencies to pay Kindsvater, who found a little-known requirement of the Seller of Travel law that Web sites selling travel must post registration numbers and filed the suit.

Kindsvater, in an interview with Travel Weekly in April, said the league only looking out for the good of consumers. Yet he said the league is not a "full-blown" organization and that the plaintiff he represents is an individual, whom he would not name.

He said he would drop the legal action against the agencies named if they posted their registration numbers on Web sides and paid the "league" a settlement fee, which would be confidential.

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