By Doyice Cotten
Mikaela Ellenwood and Jorge Casanova sued World Triathlon Corporation, Competitor Group Holdings, Incorporated, and Competitor Group, Inc. for failing to provide refunds for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series races and Ironman events that were scheduled to take place in 2020 but were postponed or cancelled due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. They claim breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. (Ellenwood v. World Triathlon Corporation, Florida, 2021)
Ellenwood paid $89 plus $14.99 processing fee when registering for a running event in San Francisco and Casanova paid $399.60 plus a $29.60 processing fee for an Ironman Triathlon running event in Santa Rosa, California. The government mandated cancellation of the events due to the COVID 19 pandemic. The defendants offered the opportunity to transfer the registrations to future comparable races, but refused to refund the money itself.
The court stated that summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party shows there is no disputed material fact and meets the burden of showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact. It further stated that the contracts at issue will be governed by Florida substantive law — which states “the construction and interpretation of an unambiguous written contract is a matter of law for the court and is therefore properly subject to disposition by summary judgment.”
After examining the contracts, the court stated both contracts clearly and unambiguously state that there will be “no refunds.” It pointed out that the contract stated “there will be no refund of the Operator’s entry fee or any costs incurred in connection with the Event.” The court stated “This is a very simple case. ‘No Refunds’ means exactly what it says — no refunds.”
Plaintiffs argued no mutuality, unconscionability, unjust enrichment, and deceptive/unfair practices — all to no effect. So the court upheld summary judgment in favor of the defendants.
Note: If was unclear whether the “no refund” language was in the registration documents and agreement or in the the liability waiver. But this was not important because the result would likely have been the same.
Risk Management Note
The key to the case — and it implies especially to waivers of liability — is that the contract contained clear and unambiguous language.
Photo Credit: thanks to Jimmy Harris via Flickr.