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For 2019, the average American wedding cost a little over $33,000. While $33,000 is a high price for one day, it is the start of a whole new life together, so why not splurge on $15,000 for a venue or even $9,000 for catering? Not only can a wedding be expensive, but it can also be extremely stressful, from the planning months before, down to the day-of details. What if a couple had set a wedding date and put down a deposit, only for that date to arrive and to be canceled or rescheduled because of a global pandemic? Due to COVID-19, that is the case for many couples in 2020.

This is the reality for a Virginia couple who had planned and paid deposits to have their wedding at Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards located right outside Charlottesville, Virginia. Now stop and think for a moment; this couple paid deposits of $32,000 to have a wedding at Pippin Hill. It can be assumed these deposits do not include the cost of the engagement ring, the wedding dress, the photographer, the florist, etc. Thus, this couple is paying above the average of the American wedding. Just think about the financial and emotional stress this couple is experiencing during what is supposed to be the best day of their lives. Anyway, I digress. The couple had initially contracted with Pippin Hill for a June 2020 wedding; however, each party renegotiated the contract for an October 2020 date because of the pandemic. Both Pippin Hill and the couple renegotiated that if the new date did not work, Pippin Hill would refund the full deposit of $32,000.  However, after discovering only a few guests would attend the October wedding, the couple informed Pippin Hill that they were going to exercise their right to cancel the wedding and receive their refund. However, Pippin Hill refused to refund the full deposits because, per county restrictions, the couple can legally hold their wedding in October. Pippin Hill offered the couple $9,000 back; however, the couple felt this was unfair and sued the vineyard.

What Is So Important about Contract, Anyways?

In any business relationship, each party must have an experienced attorney not only to draft, but to also review your contract before it is signed. One issue that could lead to a lawsuit is that the contract contains ambiguous language. While it is unknown the contract’s specific language between Pippin Hill and the couple, one can assume that the cancellation clause is ambiguous. Does the clause regarding the “date not working out” mean lack of attendance due to guests’ safety concerns or legally because of government regulation Pippin Hill cannot hold the wedding?  When negotiating a contract, an attorney should draft a dispute resolution clause, a choice of law and venue clause, a non-compete clause, and an integration clause (to name a few), enabling you and your business to succeed in case of a conflict or breach of the contract. Rachel and her team at Eden Law have years of experience drafting, negotiating, and litigating business contracts. Eden Law has the knowledge and resources necessary to ensure you and your business are protected thoroughly.

Contracts and COVID

As discussed in the news, scientists believe that another COVID wave is upon us and will again change all aspects of life. How do you protect your business during a global pandemic? In some specific situations, the contract’s performance should be excused due to some unanticipated circumstance, like an Act of God or even a pandemic. Adding a force majeure clause to a contract will allow each party’s performance to be excused when an unexpected event occurs unbeknownst to the parties when they entered into the contract.  Thus, if the couple discussed above would have added a force majeure clause to the contract, they could receive their deposit back. Make sure when you are drafting and negotiating your contracts, you hire Eden Law to protect your business now, in the future, and even during a global pandemic.

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