by Michael J. Shapiro | May 01, 2008

Fantasy reservations: Trump Taj Mahal
Fantasy reservations:
Trump Taj Mahal

In March, a New Jersey appellate court ruled that Trump Resorts must pay more than $200,000 to a company for a 2001 holiday banquet gone awry at Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal.

Onyx Acceptance Corp., an automobile finance company that is now owned by Capital One, booked a banquet hall and 60 guest rooms for a customer-
appreciation banquet at the Trump property in December 2001. But on the day of the event, the hotel failed to provide nearly half of the rooms guaranteed by the contract. Guests were turned away at check-in because the hotel was significantly overbooked.

Onyx’s Noelle Weinman, who organized the event, called the scene that day “a complete nightmare, chaos,” according to the court opinion. In testimony, Weinman alleged that the hotel agreed to put up guests at other area hotels only after several hours of arguing.

According to court records, when Weinman emphasized that Onyx had prepaid nearly $30,000 for the event, a front desk clerk responded, “Ma’am, we have people who spent $30,000 a hand.”

For its part, Trump argued that the term “guaranteed” meant only that the hotel would not cancel any reservations until the morning after the day of arrival. Guests weren’t guaranteed a room, said the hotel, because only “the reservation, not the room” actually was promised.

Describing this interpretation as “Orwellian,” the court found Trump in violation of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, in part because the hotel never previously shared its definition of “guaranteed” with Onyx.

The decision upheld a 2006 ruling that awarded $89,000 to Onyx, which was triple the cost of the deposit. Trump also was ordered to pay legal fees of approximately $90,000, plus nearly $33,000 in additional costs.