Palm Coast Travel sues a customer — and me

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By Christopher Elliott

Here we go again. Last March, I reported that the Florida regulators had warned three travel agencies that sold insurance policies offered by bankrupt Prime Travel Protection Services of Arvada, Colo., that its activities may have run afoul of state insurance statues.

I quoted Nina Banister, a spokeswoman for Florida’s Department of Financial Services, as saying the state had ordered the agencies to “stop transacting business” and that “they’re on notice that further activity is pending [by the state].”

Soon after that, Florida issued a press release stating, “As a result of ongoing investigations into complaints about the sale of unauthorized travel insurance in Florida, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has notified three travel agencies that she intends to order them to stop selling insurance.”

The legal notice to one of the agencies, Palm Coast Travel, alleges that the company “directly or indirectly acted as agent for or otherwise represented or aided one or more unauthorized insurers…” The matter is still pending.

Now Palm Coast Travel has sued one of its customers, Peter Lay, and me, alleging, among other things, that I defamed the company when I reported the story. Here’s the full text of the complaint (PDF). (Here’s how to find the best travel advisor.)

Among Palm Coast’s allegations against me are the following:

Elliott included among his reporting recent regulatory investigations of customer complaints regarding Prime Travel Protection and Jerry Watson. Elliott’s reporting included publication of false information regarding Palm Coast, which has and will continue to damage Palm Coast’s business unless it is properly remedied.

Among the statements Elliott published were falsehoods that stated that Palm Coast had been ordered to cease doing business by the State of Florida. No such order exists, and therefore that report was false.

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Further, Elliott, when purporting to “clarify” his deliberately false statement regarding the State of Florida’s investigation of travel insurance, did not fully remedy the false impression he fostered regarding Palm Coast’s role.

Elliott’s falsehoods were directed at, among other aspects of Palm Coast’s business, its reputation in the trade or industry of travel. Moreover, Elliott did not properly correct, clarify, or retract his falsehoods, despite proper notice.

That’s certainly an interesting perspective on what happened. Perhaps Palm Coast Travel’s next step will be to sue the State of Florida for issuing the press release?

Update (6/1/10): Palm Coast Travel has dropped the lawsuit.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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