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Daily Journal covers Al Rava's win against Club Med
Via Mark A. Article appears here, but this is a subscription-only site. It covers legal issues and is widely-read by attorneys.
FROM BOTH SIDES NOW: LAWYER WINS AS COUNSEL AND PLAINTIFF
By Don J. DeBenedictis
SANTA ANA - If attorney Alfred G. Rava hadn't won an important civil rights ruling from the California Supreme Court last year, lead plaintiff Alfred G. Rava might not have won a hefty settlement in an unrelated men's rights class action last week.
The settlement ends litigation by Rava and other men challenging a promotion by Club Med Sales Inc., the French vacation-resorts company, that offered women, but not men, $400 discounts on airfare to either of two Club Med locations. Rava v. Club Med Sales Inc., 03CC09858 (Orange Co. Super. Ct., filed Aug. 4, 2003)
Rava, a San Diego lawyer and activist for men's rights, had won a unanimous ruling from the Supreme Court last May in a case challenging "ladies' nights" at a nightclub.
The issues in that case were a little different from those in the suit against Club Med, but "once that case [came down], this case almost immediately settled," said Eric C. Jenkins, Rava's winning attorney against the resorts.
One of Club Med's attorneys, Michael P. Acain, conceded as much.
The unanimous opinion by Chief Justice Ronald M. George in Rava's case, Angelucci v. Century Supper Club, 41 Cal. 4th 160, (Cal., 2007), "did confirm that the Supreme Court takes that strict approach" to gender discrimination issues, Acain said.
The Club Med settlement may set a record for settlements under California's Unruh Civil Rights Act and under the newer Gender Tax Repeal Act, Rava and Jenkins believe. As approved Feb. 25 by Orange County Superior Court Judge Ronald H. Bauer, the settlement demands $520,000 from Club Med, including a whopping $400,000 in attorney fees for the plaintiff class.
A total of 257 men purchased vacation packages during the "Ladies Fly Free" promotion, but Club Med could only locate 54 of them, and only 50 submitted claims in time to join the class. Each of those 50 men will receive $1,200 in cash plus three $400 air-fare discount coupons.
Jenkins and Rava said their research did not uncover any larger settlements under the two rights acts.
Their lawsuit claims Club Med committed "intentional acts of discrimination against men" by not offering them the same airfare deal as women, denying the men "equal treatment under the law."
Jenkins, of Fuller Jenkins in La Jolla, said the resort company's liability under the state rights acts was clear.
"Certainly, the California state Legislature doesn't like gender discrimination," he said. "The [Uhruh act's] penalties keep going up."
With results like this, "hopefully ... the word will get out that you cannot discriminate based on gender," Jenkins added.
Acain, of McKay, Graham & de Lorimier in Los Angeles, said the big problem for his client was the Unruh Act itself.
"It's always been Club Med's contention that ... [there was] no intent to discriminate," Acain said. "The Unruh Act is so broadly worded that it takes intent out of it."
Meanwhile, Rava never made it to a Club Med resort. He and his girlfriend had purchased vacation packages to the Cancun club on July 7, 2003. He paid $1,407 and she paid $1,007.
But because his attorneys filed his class action on Aug. 4, Rava decided not to take the scheduled trip in October. He said he was concerned about how a plaintiff might be received at the resort.
Still, he wishes he could have gone. "We made all the plans to go," he said.
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