Weddings are supposed to be the most joyous of times. Yet, today’s environment has led to the unimaginable and potentially fraudulent practice of wedding venues and banquet halls refusing to refund deposit monies amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak have, in some circumstances, made it entirely impossible or impractical for parties to fulfill their duties and obligations under contracts for goods and services including, but not limited to, wedding halls and other venues. In order to properly protect yourself from such scenarios, it is important to look at the contract’s “force majeure” clause or other similar clauses, which typically establish legal defenses to a party’s contractual obligations. Oftentimes, these clauses are triggered due to impossibility of carrying out a wedding or other event due to situations such as COVID-19 and related government directives.
In order to properly cancel a contract because of impossibility in the current environment, typical contracts usually require “reasonable notice” to the other side advising that you are affirmatively exercising your rights pursuant to the force majeure clause. Because such cancellation notices can be extremely time sensitive depending on the anticipated wedding or event date; deposit deadlines; deadline to deliver guest lists, and other related terms and conditions, notice should be given immediately and formally by way of mail or email, unless the contract states otherwise. Such notice should advise the venue that, because the terms of the contract cannot be fulfilled under New Jersey law, you are exercising the right to cancel the agreement and demanding a full refund of all deposits.
Ultimately, the analysis of a party’s ability to cancel an event and entitlement to the return of the deposit requires proof that the scope and extent of the impairing circumstances due to COVID-19 prohibits the event from taking place as planned or even at all. Typically, the legal standard in these cases requires proof that having the event is impossible and/or impractical and/or the hardship is so clear and egregious that it would be so fundamentally unfair to carry out such an event including, but not limited to, the potential significant threat to the health and safety of the general public.
Of course, as in any legal contractual interpretation, the exact language in the contract must be carefully analyzed and compared to the specific facts of each case. As such, each matter must be handled on a case-by-case basis with their own unique set of facts. Additionally, the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 virus and the State’s response to same are subject to change daily and, therefore, this article is meant for educational purposes and to advise of your right to potential legal recourse.
If you are encountering issues similar to those outlined above, please feel free to contact us for a consultation so that we may provide you with a legal opinion specifically related to your contract and the underlying facts.
JOHN T. BAZZURRO, Esq.
David P. Levine, Esq. Of Counsel to the Firm
Michael B. Shaw, Esq., Associate Attorney
firstname.lastname@example.org • BAZZURROLAW.COM
Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Civil