COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Cedar Point does not have to refund season pass holders for COVID-19-related park shutdowns in 2020.
In a unanimous decision, the court determined the two-month shutdown was beyond Cedar Fair's control and did not constitute breach of contract. The decision overturns an April ruling in the Toledo-based Sixth District Court of Appeals.
"[Cedar Point] expressly reserved the right to change its operating dates without notice and to close its rides and attractions 'for weather and other conditions,'" Justice Sharon Kennedy wrote. "In March 2020, the state government ordered a shutdown of amusement parks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cedar Fair opened Cedar Point to season-pass holders in July 2020, after the government-mandated shutdown was lifted. We conclude that Cedar Fair’s delay in opening its parks to season-pass holders does not, by itself, establish a claim for breach of contract or for unjust enrichment."
Laura Valentine, of Mayfield Heights, Ohio, was a Cedar Point Gold Pass holder in 2020 and filed the lawsuit against Cedar Fair, the parent company of Cedar Point. She and other plaintiffs argued the following points:
- At the time Cedar Fair sold the season passes, it posted the expected dates of the open season for each park. The parks are generally open during weekends beginning in April or May and then daily from Memorial Day until Labor Day. In other words, the parks have an approximately 130 to 140-day operating season. Plaintiffs allege that Cedar Fair refused to provide them with a refund for the portion of the regularly scheduled year that its parks remain closed.
- Plaintiffs allege that Cedar Fair made the following misrepresentations on its sites:
- That the passholders would have unlimited access for all of the 2020 season
- That its parks would have an operating season lasting 130-140 days, beginning in April or May
- Plaintiffs allege that the parks failed to disclose on their websites that if an unexpected event or force majeure forced them to close for a substantial portion of the year, the parks would not return any of the season-pass holders’ purchase price.
- Plaintiffs allege that, based on those misrepresentations and omission, a reasonable consumer would believe that if Cedar Fair closed its parks for all or a substantial portion of the season, it would return a proportionate amount of the passes’ purchase price for the time the parks remained closed. They contend that Cedar Fair’s conduct, in making its representations and omission, was deceptive and unfair.
Cedar Fair argued that a reasonable consumer would not believe that it would return a proportionate portion of the pass purchase price based on the following disclaimers on its parks’ websites and/or on the passes themselves:
- I agree that all ticket sales are final. There are no refunds or exchanges.
- ALL SALES ARE FINAL – NO REFUNDS, NO TRANSFERS OR CHANGES, NO RAIN CHECKS, NOT VALID FOR CASH.
- All operating dates and hours are subject to change without notice.
- All rides and attractions are subject to closings and cancellations for weather or other conditions.
- Operating dates are subject to change without notice.
- All attractions are subject to closing and cancellations for weather or other conditions.
"But even if we assume it is true that Cedar Fair’s season regularly runs from May through October, that would not mean that Cedar Fair was contractually bound to open its parks in May 2020," Kennedy wrote. "Again, the terms and conditions provided: 'All operating dates and hours are subject to change without notice. All rides are subject to closings and cancellations for weather or other conditions.' Cedar Fair therefore reserved the right to adjust its dates of operation for any reason, and there is no question that Ohio’s government-mandated shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic was a condition that required Cedar Fair to close its parks for approximately two months."
The Sandusky amusement park opened for the 2020 season in July after the state lifted orders that kept large gathering places from opening. Cedar Point granted 2020 passes through the 2021 season.