Columbus settles lawsuit with Orbitz for $450,000

Online travel company Orbitz will pay Columbus $450,000 to settle a lawsuit over hotel-motel taxes .

City Attorney Clifton Fay said the court battle didn’t cost taxpayers any money and the city will get taxes it was owed. “The best thing about this is we get the tax money that should have been collected, according to the Georgia Supreme Court,” Fay said today. “We got hotels back online on Orbitz. Those are the two important things about the settlement.”

The settlement ends a four-year court battle to get hotel-motel tax dollars that should have been paid to Columbus. The city filed a lawsuit against Orbitz and other online travel companies in 2006 after it learned the city wasn’t paid the taxes on the amount paid for a room but the cheaper rate paid by the online travel company. After the suit was filed, Columbus was delisted from websites by Orbitz and other online companies.

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in June 2009 that Columbus should be paid taxes on the amount a customer pays for a room.

On Wednesday, Orbitz agreed to start listing Columbus hotels on its websites for visitors while other details of the agreement were worked out.

Fay said the cash settlement will be placed into a trust account of Columbus law firm Pope, McGlamry, Kilpatrick, Morrison and Norwood. Attorney Trip Tomlinson and others who worked on the case will recover their expenses and the city will recover the rest.

The city may wind up with between $200,000 and $250,000, Fay said. “We just don’t know the exact amount now.”

As part of the settlement, Tomlinson said the city has agreed not to sue Orbitz over the issue for a specified period of time.

Attorney Jerry A. Buchanan of Buchanan and Land LLP represents Orbitz. He was not available for comment on the settlement.

Tomlinson said he’s pleased with the settlement. “I’m pleased with the settlement and pleased that they put everybody back on line so quickly,” he said.

Check for more details in Ledger-Enquirer.com