Investment Firm Sues Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort Over $1.1 Million Cancellation Fee for Conference During COVID-19 Pandemic
If you had an event or wedding planned ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve probably been faced with cancellation fees despite the unprecedented circumstances. However, an investment research firm is now faced with a $1.1 million cancellation fee in light of a 2,200 person conference at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort that was unable to be held. Now, that investment firm is suing the hotel in Florida federal court, asking that the court nullify the contract due to the pandemic.
Iowa-based Cambridge Investment Research Inc. is seeking a declaratory judgment from the court recognizing its right to enforce the contract’s force majeure clause, or that the contract could not be executed due to the pandemic. Alternatively, Cambridge is asking the court to rule that its performance should be “excused due to frustration of purpose.”
“Under each theory, Cambridge requests a declaratory judgment that it is not liable to the hotel for cancellation fees or other damages,” Cambridge said.
The conference in question was scheduled to occur in September, and Cambridge says that after speaking with representatives in June from the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, it became clear that the conference could not be held there.
According to the lawsuit, there were a number of laws and regulations in place in Florida making it “illegal, impossible or impracticable” for the conference to occur. At the time, the Disney World resort and the hotel were closed, and it was unclear if they would reopen by September, Cambridge says. Both reopened in July.
The event was officially cancelled in June, however according to the contract, by cancelling the event between Sept. 21, 2019, and Sept. 20, 2020, Cambridge is obligated to pay a fee of around $1.1 million. Swan and Dolphin is still seeking cancellation fees, claiming that it “did not appear that force majeure would apply, and that regardless of its applicability it could not be determined until the dates occurred.”
Even in September, government restrictions made it illegal or virtually impossible to hold an indoor conference at the hotel, given that all 2,200 attendees could not be accommodated while still observing proper social distancing.