Ironman Organizers Get Win In COVID-19 Cancellation Suit

By Carolina Bolado
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Law360 (January 7, 2021, 10:01 PM EST) -- A Florida judge on Thursday ended a proposed class suit accusing the company behind Ironman triathlons of not refunding fees for races canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ruling that the "no refunds" clause of the participant contract is both clear and not unconscionable.

U.S. District Judge Tom Barber granted World Triathlon Corp.'s request for summary judgment after finding that the contracts signed by the two lead plaintiffs clearly and unambiguously state that there will be no refunds for cancellations because of something beyond the company's control, like the weather.

"This is a very simple case," the judge said. "'No refunds' means exactly what it says — no refunds."

The judge also said that rather than being unconscionable, a no-refund clause is "fair and consistent with common sense," given the type of event at issue.

"If it were deemed unconscionable for the host of an outdoor sporting event to include a 'no refund' provision in its contracts, it is unlikely any rational economic actor would ever agree to host an outdoor sporting event due to the many weather-related contingencies that can and do occur," Judge Barber said.

In the suit filed in May, two lead plaintiffs said WTC had failed to refund the entry fees they had paid for races canceled by government mandate because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mikaela Ellenwood of Denver, Colorado, said she had paid $89 plus a $14.99 processing fee for a Rock 'n' Roll Marathon event that was supposed to be held in San Francisco on April 5. Jorge Casanova of Vallejo, California, paid $399.60 plus a $29.60 processing fee for registration for an Ironman triathlon that was to be held in Santa Rosa, California, on May 9, according to the complaint.

WTC offered opportunities for the plaintiffs and other registrants to transfer registrations to future comparable races but did not offer any refunds, according to the suit.

Attorneys for the parties did not respond to requests for comment.

The plaintiffs are represented by James C. Shah, Michael P. Ols and Nathan Zipperian of Shepherd Finkelman Miller & Shah LLC, and John F. Edgar and Michael R. Owens of Edgar Law Firm LLC.

WTC is represented by David E. Cannella and Dominic Kouffman of Holland & Knight LLP.

The case is Ellenwood et al. v. World Triathlon Corp. et al., case number 8:20-cv-01182, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

--Editing by Steven Edelstone.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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Case Information

Case Title

Ellenwood v. World Triathlon Corporation et al


Case Number

8:20-cv-01182

Court

Florida Middle

Nature of Suit

Contract: Other

Judge

Thomas P. Barber

Date Filed

May 22, 2020

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