St. John’s lawyer seeks class-action go well with over refunds owed to households after college journeys cancelled

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Bruce Tilley/CBC

Grace Dawson was looking forward to making memories with her friends on what should have been a once-in-a-lifetime school trip from St. John’s, N.L. to New York City.

But the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans, cancelling hundreds of trips like Dawson’s across the country as a result of border closures and a growing number of cases throughout the United States which now has the world’s largest caseload at over seven million.

“We had a lot of stuff on the itinerary. Some sightseeing, some Broadway shows,” Grace Dawson told CBC News on Friday. 

“Of course I was really sad, but I understand with the pandemic that we had to cancel.”

Her trip totalled about $2,500 — money she had saved with the addition of a few dollars happily donated by her mom who knows the value of vacation with friends. 

“I think they would have had a really good time,” Renee Dawson, Grace’s mother, said. “Much more than with their mom and dad.”

But with trips now cancelled, parents and students alike are looking for their money back. 

Renee Dawson said she knew they would get their money back, officially cancelling the trip 51 days ahead of time, but only received a portion of the total — around $600.

“Some of us had insurance, some of us didn’t. We were told and we understood that what wasn’t given back to us by Explorica, the travel company, would be covered by the insurance company,” Renee Dawson said. 

Explorica Canada Inc., based out of Toronto, Ont., provides a trip booking service for teachers and schools to plan educational vacations for groups of students to cities around the globe.

Thousands of people from over 125 schools across the country are also looking for their money back.

Travis Payne, a lawyer with Curtis Dawe Lawyers who represents some of the complainants, told CBC News he sent a letter to Explorica Canada Inc. and its insurers Arch Insurance Canada Ltd. and Old Republic Insurance Company of Canada giving them a week to respond to the missing refunds and avoid litigation.

Payne sent the letter on behalf of the members of the Facebook group Explorica Canada-Trying to get our Refunds.

The members of the group, and the number of schools, has doubled in size since CBC News first reported unreturned money related to cancelled Explorica trips last week. The group currently has 960 members.

But, as of Friday the deadline was missed, and Payne said he’s moving forward with a national class-action lawsuit. 

“I believe its seven schools here in the province with an estimated value of refunds north of a half-million dollars,” he said. 

“Across the country we know of over 125 schools affected. We’re still running the numbers, but easily in the thousands of people without money.”

Payne said each trip has a different value, but estimates roughly between $8 million and $12 million is owed to families across the country. 

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