Hotel Californian Sued Over $45,000 Deposit for Wedding Canceled by COVID

Couple Alleged Santa Barbara Resort Illegally Withheld Funds

Credit: Courtesy of Lee & Associates

The Hotel Californian has capitulated on a breach of contract lawsuit after it initially withheld a $45,000 deposit from a couple whose wedding plans were dashed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to their complaint, Orange County residents Max and Haley Vincent signed a contract with the resort to host their ceremony and reception on September 18, 2020, as well as provide 50 rooms for their guests. The agreement included a Force Majeure clause, “which states that the contract may be terminated without a cancellation charge for inability to perform due to government regulation or any other emergency beyond the control of the parties,” the lawsuit said.

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On March 4, 2020, as the virus seeped through California, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency and soon after issued a stay-at-home order. The Vincents’ wedding was rescheduled for May 22, 2021, but the ongoing pandemic rendered that date impossible as well. The couple canceled completely and attempted to recoup their $45,000 deposit but were told by the Californian that not only was their deposit nonrefundable but their cancelation would result in a $53,000 penalty. The Vincents invoked the Force Majeure clause, the Californian refused to return the deposit, and the couple sued. The resort settled and returned the funds this August. 

Sheri Vincent, Max’s mother, said she was glad the settlement didn’t include a gag order so she could speak openly about the hotel’s “horrific behavior.” The managers were obstinate and unreasonable, she said, and she was glad to see the recent news that the property is now under new ownership. “I hope they do a better job,” she said.

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