The Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort has been ordered to pay a company more than $200,000 in damages and fees as a result of a corporate event that went seriously awry.
In a decision handed down earlier this month, a New Jersey appellate court found that the Atlantic City hotel violated the state’s Consumer Fraud Act when it guaranteed 60 room reservations for a corporate holiday party in December 2001 but failed to provide almost half of the rooms.
The Trump Taj Mahal argued that its guarantee only extended to the 60 reservations, and not the actual rooms, but the court called the resort’s reasoning “Orwellian” and sided with the company.
The company, an automobile finance firm called Onyx Acceptance Corp. (now part of Capital One), had prepaid the resort more than $29,000 for a banquet and the 60 hotel rooms. According to the court decision, the Trump Taj Mahal “significantly” overbooked its hotel for the night and found itself short of the 60 rooms it had reserved for Onyx.
When Onyx employees and guests arrived for the event, many were told the hotel was sold out and that no rooms were available. When the Onyx executive who had booked the event complained to the front desk and displayed paperwork showing the company had booked the rooms, the response was, “Sorry, there’s nothing we can do.” When the Onyx executive further explained the company had prepaid almost $30,000, the front desk clerk, according to the appellate court decision, “was unimpressed … and responded by saying, ‘Ma’am, we have people who spend $30,000 a hand.’”
As Onyx executives and resort staff argued over the company’s predicament, the situation became, according to witnesses, “chaotic,” leaving roomless Onyx employees and guests “upset, angry, even furious,” and wondering whether they were going to get rooms or should just head home.
It was only after a few hours of argument that Trump Taj Mahal offered to provide Onyx’s guests with rooms from hotels in the vicinity. In the meantime, the company banquet was placed in jeopardy and ultimately failed as an event, claimed Onyx, because of the delay getting the company’s guests their hotel rooms.
In the end, the Trump Taj Mahal booked six guests at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, 20 at the Days Inn in Atlantic City, and one at La Sammana hotel in Brigantine. “Onyx was not satisfied,” the court said. “The alternative accommodations were not what Onyx wanted or what it had paid for, and they were not even offered until after Onyx had argued with the hotel staff for several hours. Moreover, some of Onyx's guests were upset at the idea of relocating to a lesser hotel, such as the Days Inn.”
In its ruling, the appeals court held that the hotel had guaranteed the 60 rooms on numerous occasions during the planning process for the event, and also that it had failed to inform Onyx that it had a policy of overbooking and that it routinely sends customers with guaranteed reservations to other hotels.
The court upheld a previous ruling awarding Onyx $89,000, or three times the cost of the banquet and rooms, and also ordered the hotel to pay Onyx $90,000 in legal fees and $33,000 in other court costs.