$80 million ticket on the Erie Railway

In City of San Antonio v. Hotels.com, the Fifth Circuit reversed an $84 million judgment for several cities, against online hotel reservation services, relating to the collection of local occupancy taxes. The holding turned entirely on the force of an intermediate Texas appellate opinon under the Erie doctrine. In its reasoning, the Fifth Circuit rejected a number of arguments against following that opinion, including: (1) the scope of the record before the courts; (2) the analytical framework used by the Texas court; and (3) the precise language of the relevant ordinance. The Court was satisfied with the general principles relied upon by the Texas opinion, as well as its resolution of “absurd result” arguments made in both cases. No. 16-50479 (Nov. 29, 2017). The Dallas Morning News has a good summary of the issues and history of this long-running litigation.

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