As wedding season approaches, couples across the nation are faced with the grim reality that their weddings have been involuntarily canceled due to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This problem can be compounded when the chosen wedding venue refuses to refund the deposit or allow the couple to get out of the original contract. Consequently, we are likely to see an onslaught of lawsuits against wedding venues and vendors in the year to come, particularly breach of contract claims by brides-to-be against wedding venues and vendors for refusal to refund advanced payments for a wedding that never occurs.
If your wedding was canceled by coronavirus, you do have legal options. Your first step should be to speak with an experienced California business dispute lawyer who understands the relevant statutes and who can help you get out of the contract.
Legal Claims for Couples Whose Weddings Were Canceled Because of COVID-19
Finding out that you can no longer have your wedding at the venue you chose is already devastating enough without the possibility that you may be forced to pay for the wedding anyway. Fortunately, there is some hope for couples who need to get out of written contracts. For example, some wedding contracts may contain force majeure provisions, which means that you may be able to rescind your wedding contract if it is impossible to execute. Along those same lines, your wedding contract may be considered an unenforceable contract because it is against public policy.
What Is the Law on Wedding Contracts in California?
Wedding contracts create special circumstances around would-be newlyweds. The United States government has declared a national emergency. Certain states, such as California, have issued orders implementing “shelter in place” of all residents, ordering closure of all nonessential businesses, and prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people. These rules have arguably created a public policy that weddings cannot go forward during the crisis.
Generally, a legal claim fails if it is based on an agreement that violates law and is contrary to public policy. In Kashani v. Tsann Kuen China Enter. Co., a California Appellate Court ruled that the law “has a long history of recognizing the general rule that certain contracts, though properly entered into in all other respects, will not be enforced if found to be contrary to public policy.” Given the public prohibition in California regarding gatherings of 10 or more people during the COVID-19 pandemic, anyone attending, hosting, or working a wedding would be acting contrary to public policy by threatening public health. Consider the legal implications for a bride who hires a wedding photographer, only to later find out that the wedding was canceled because of coronavirus. Legally speaking, that bride might not be obligated to pay the photographer.
Contact the Los Angeles Business Dispute Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP
The challenge with wedding vendor contracts is the prevailing industry standard, whereby all services are typically pre-paid in full. Given the unprecedented circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the best move you can make right now is to speak with an attorney who understands California contract law, particularly as it relates to businesses.
The Los Angeles business dispute lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP can advise you regarding your rights and obligations. We can also help you navigate the complex legal process. Call us at 310-590-3927 or send an email.