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TexLaw, Attorney
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Experience:  Lead trial/International commercial attorney licensed 11 yrs
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I booked a cruise through a travel agent in San Rafael, You

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I booked a cruise through a travel agent in San Rafael, You and Leisure, for last November. It had to be cancelled because of my husband's illness. I had travel insurance which paid all but the amount remitted to the travel agency by the Crystal Cruise line, $9,360. After much effort at contacting them, Carlos Afre, the owner informed me he was going bankrupt. My VIsa card won't pay because it has been over 90 days since I paid. The insurance company has fulfilled its obligation. I don't know what to do next. I find on the web that my clailm is "non-dischargeable" but I don't know what that means. Can you tell me the most sensible way to proceed in trying to get my money back?
Ingrid Evans [email protected]
Dear Ms. Evans:

Thank you for submitting your important legal issue to Just Answer. I am pleased to have the opportunity to provide you with an honest and easy to understand answer to your question.

I am an attorney licensed in the State of Texas. The following information is a brief answer to your question. However, if you feel that you need further information or that you have other insights which might help me in providing a better answer, please feel free to write back.

From what I understand, you booked a cruise which you later canceled due to your husband's illness. When you cancelled, the cruise line remitted some of the money you had paid ($9,360) to the travel agency. When you contacted the travel agency to attempt to collect it, the travel agent informed you that he was going bankrupt.

First of all, be very wary of a business owner who tells you he is going bankrupt when you owe him money. Often, small businesses will attempt to avoid paying customers that are owed money by misrepresenting to them that they are in fact going bankrupt.

Second of all, I suspect there is some paper work that you signed, i.e., a contract, with the travel agent or with the cruise line that controls the procedure for a refund. You may need to contact the cruise line and inquire into why they paid the travel agent instead of paying you directly. Try to find information as to who handles these types of issues with the cruise line and see if you can speak to them directly so that you can get more information. You would be asking for someone who handles refunding tickets. Make sure that everything proceeded according to the terms of your agreement.

Next, I would contact the travel agent once again and request written confirmation that they have in fact received your money. Ask for the travel agent to acknowledge in writing that this money is in fact yours.

The long and short of it is that if the travel agent has your money that was refunded from the cruise line, the travel agent owes you that money. Bankruptcy will only halt your ability to collect the money. When a person files for bankruptcy, the law provides what is known as the "Automatic Stay" which stops all litigation to collect money owed. Currently, you have a lawsuit against the travel agent for such causes of action as conversion, misrepresentation, violation of consumer protection statutes, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, and unjust enrichment.

If the travel agent will not acknowledge that he owes you the money and enter into some sort of payment arrangement, then you really have two options.   The first is to file suit against the travel agent in small claims court (assuming the travel agent is located in your state). You can generally go through small claims court without using an attorney. The process is generally easy to navigate. The second option is to hire a local attorney to collect the money for you. Of course, you may have to pay the attorney up front. However, an attorney will be able to assist you in collecting at least some of the money if the travel agent has in deed filed for bankruptcy. If the travel agent filed for bankruptcy, you would need to file a claim with the bankruptcy court. This process can be a bit difficult to do without a laywer, and I would not advise trying to do it by yourself.

Once you have filed a claim with the bankruptcy court, then you are placed in line amongst the other people whom the travel agent owes money, and you will be paid eventually.

If the travel agent was misrepresenting the fact that he had declared bankruptcy, then a local attorney will be able to discover this fact and will be able to file suit against the travel agent and possibly collect attorneys fees.

I hope that this information has been helpful to you. If we can be of any further assistance please free to use our service again. Best wishes for a successful outcome.

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The information provided is general in nature only and should not be construed as legal advice. By using this forum, you acknowledge that no attorney-client relationship has been created between you and Zachary D. Norris or The Norris Law Firm. For complete legal advice and representation, you should consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your state.

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