News: Plaintiffs land key victory in suit against Cedar Fair over 2020 season passes

Every experience to an amusement park is different each time you go, COVID or no COVID. Your season pass isn’t purchased based on what you predict the experience would be. Rather, how many times you can actually enter the park in a given season. The extension to the following year was generous enough in my opinion.

The extension wasn’t a solution for every single guest though. And I think that’s the point here. You can’t peanut butter one option across hundreds of thousands of pass holders and expect it to work 100%.

Kevinj's avatar

These weren't just "sorry the park was closed for unforeseen circumstances", and to say "Covid or no Covid" is not exactly OK. Because Covid.

Again, I was happy the passes were extended. For me and my family that was wonderful news, because we were there in 2020 anyway once it opened.

But some individuals with passes, for justifiable reasons (regardless of what any of us think), did not even feel safe leaving the home and being around large portions of the public, and there was no certainty this would or would not continue into 2021. Not to mention lots and lots of individuals' lives were entirely up-ended via sickness, death, job loss, even suggest that 2020 is on par with just "any other amusement park visit" seems a bit of a stretch.

It was weird as hell.

I completely agree that the offer to extend was generous. No one is questioning the generosity of that; just the lack of clarifying that one could get a refund if one asked in the right way.

In case no one has bothered to read about the actual case the lawsuit stems from, it came from a woman with a Knott's season pass (Knott's did not open at all in 2020) who moved to Washington, meaning for her this extension was meaningless.

But what do I know? I'm just a caveman...

Last edited by Kevinj,

Promoter of fog.

But was anybody actually denied a refund if they truly asked? I wouldn’t get a refund on my purchases from a store, restaurant, or in this case an amusement park if I didn’t go to customer service and ask for one. Whether the option of getting a refund was advertised or not by Cedar Fair, the option was there for many that asked and in fact DID receive a refund.

I don’t know exactly what Knotts Berry Farm was doing, but just because this person moved to Washington state the year after their pass was purchased doesn’t mean they are entitled to a refund and implying they should is not OK either. What if COVID was not a thing and they purchased the pass for the 2020 season and right after they purchased the season pass, they accepted a job offer and moved to Washington? Are they still entitled to a full refund? Life happens. Things happen. And that’s exactly what…happened. At the end of the day, the ruling is not up to me or you. I just respectfully disagree.

Last edited by TwistedWicker77,
Jeff's avatar

Your position is not tenable. As Kevin pointed out, not everyone can or would be as laissez-faire about spending a few hundred bucks on something that they can't use, when they expected to use it. Some people did get refunds, but did everyone know that was an option? I help run the longest-running fan site about one of the parks, and I don't know.

Jeff - Advocate of Great Great Tunnels™ - Co-Publisher - PointBuzz - CoasterBuzz - Blog - Music

I disagree in that my position is indeed tenable, and I can see I’m not the only one that thinks the same as can be seen across all platforms. I’m not sure how you didn’t know refunds were an option either. It was talked about and continues to be talked about by many. At the end of the day, a closed mouth doesn’t get fed.

Last edited by TwistedWicker77,

Many people did not know refunds were an option, actually. As was seen across many platforms.

Obviously the judge (who is an actual legal expert) saw fit to allow this case to move forward which means that in spite of those of us who don’t see merit in this case, the legal expert clearly did.

Whether it’s decided in favor or not for CF remains to be seen.

Kevinj's avatar

Cedar Fair's defense is as follows:

A reasonable consumer wouldn’t have expected a prorated refund based on disclaimers on the park’s websites and on the passes themselves (quoted in full from Carr’s ruling:)

* I agree that all ticket sales are final. There are no refunds or exchanges.
*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.

These disclaimers are fine in a normal universe. The problem is, Covid-19 threw us into the twilight zone. It is not unreasonable to assume that these disclaimers (made in a non pandemic universe) would not all apply due to Covid. It's a (hopefully) once in a lifetime pandemic.

Cedar Fair goes on to argue:

Cedar Fair argues it gave consumers an equal trade...

Not really. For me and my family? Sure. But we were not (really) touched by the pandemic in any meaningful way relative to others. For some (including the original plantiff) this wasn't remotely a fair trade.

Cedar Fair is literally arguing that a reasonable consumer would not have expected a refund.

I think a reasonable consumer would have expected a choice.

Last edited by Kevinj,

Promoter of fog.

XS NightClub's avatar

For those defending the position that the park made a reasonable effort to inform the public of being able to request a refund, can you find a link from any of the parks websites or social media posts that clearly state that refunds were available?

This to me was a pure business decision on behalf of CF. Hold on to as much money as you can in what was the most uncertain of times in their history.

Was it wise at the time... probably. Is it wise to fight it now.... probably not.

Missed a full season at CP for the first time since 2007, maybe Sandusky will be back on my travel list next year.... Depends what CP has up their sleeve for 2023.

Mr. Potato's avatar

TwistedWicker77 said:

I disagree in that my position is indeed tenable, and I can see I’m not the only one that thinks the same as can be seen across all platforms.

If there is one thing we've learned from the last several years is that just because a large amount of people have a common belief about something, doesn't mean it's necessarily true.

Gemini 100 (6/11/01)

Court ruling was on Cedar Fair's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint. To be successful, Cedar Fair needed to establish that even if all the facts that the plaintiff alleges are true, the plaintiff would not be entitled to win as a matter of law. Court held that reasonableness (in terms of what a reasonable customer expected given what happened in 2020) and whether the 2021 pass (that the 2020 passes were extended into) was of equal or greater value as a good faith substitute were matters of fact which meant Cedar Fair could not prevail on its motion to dismiss.

As a matter of procedure, plaintiff filed a breach of contract case in Erie County Court of Common Pleas. That case was initially dismissed (on a motion to dismiss filed by Cedar Fair). Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals reversed that dismissal holding there were matters of fact in dispute. Cedar Fair appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court (which took the case).

While that Erie County case was dismissed, the plaintiff filed the US Northern District of Ohio case in Toledo. Alleges breach of contract claim and breach of Ohio consumer protection statutes. Cedar Fair moved to stay the Toledo case while the Erie County case is still pending (court agreed with respect to the contract claim but not the consumer protection claim).

Motions to dismiss often play into settlement negotiations. Plaintiffs' attorneys will say they are looking for cases that can survive motions to dismiss/for summary judgment. This one did that. We will see where it goes and if the Erie County case has any impact on it.

Will be interesting to see how they would establish who is entitled to damages and how much those damages should be. Court talked about returning a proportionate portion of the purchase price for a pass. How do you determine that? Different parks in the chain were open for different number of days. Do you look at what would be a home park? Does it matter if you used your pass in 2020 or 2021? What about people who even when the parks were open either didn't feel comfortable going or didn't think the experience being offered was worth the time? May just end up drawing some arbitrary lines and making refund amounts based on them. Historically speaking plaintiffs' attorneys do much better with class action cases than class action plaintiffs.

Jeff's avatar

I totally get everything that you're describing, as an officer of a party to a lawsuit going through the same process. It's even more convoluted, and will take longer, because of arbitration clauses and subcontractors.

And yeah, at best they might get a portion of the refunds, if anything at all.

Jeff - Advocate of Great Great Tunnels™ - Co-Publisher - PointBuzz - CoasterBuzz - Blog - Music

Litigation isn't fun for anyone other than the litigators. Have seen it take a huge toll on participants.

Seems to me seeking dismissal was the right approach for Cedar Fair. Relatively easy in terms of preparing for it. And they got the state court claim dismissed (though as noted that was overturned on appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court looking to review it).

Plaintiff may have split the claims up intentionally. File the contract case in Ohio court to see if it sticks. When it didn't, file in federal court for consumer protection claim. They initially filed that under multiple state laws (including Ohio) but later agreed that Ohio law governs.

Having two separate cases moving forward doesn't make much sense to me. Its all under Ohio law at this point so maybe the Ohio case makes more sense. Though diversity of the parties justifies federal court. Either way, seems to me it should be one case. So far the plaintiff presumably prefers the federal case and Cedar Fair the state court case.

How many people are taking Cedar Fair to court here? Seems like a big group of candidates to me.

According to the complaint, the proposed class of plaintiffs is "all individuals who purchased a 2020 season pass to a Cedar Fair park."

Dovel & Luner in Santa Monica, California is plaintiff lead counsel. Sure they would add people to the class of plaintiffs if you reach out to them.

I purchased a 2020 season pass in August of 2019. I ended up going 6 times between the purchase and the end of the season.

In 2020 I only went once, sometime in July I think. It was a pretty miserable experience, not because of the weather but because you had to wear a mask everywhere; most of the rides were either closed or operating at VERY limited capacity, meaning a HUGE line and hour and a half wait to ride the train because they were only running 1 and only filling every third row (I walked instead); and despite the mask guideline, most everybody toward the back of the park was either wearing them pulled down under their chin, hanging from one ear, or not at all; and no employee was approaching them, because they didn't want to get punched.

Last year I went multiple times. So I'd say I got more than my $99 worth seeing as how it was good for 2 1/2 seasons.

Still, if this lawsuit is successful I guess I'll get a share since I did purchase a 2020 season pass. I look forward to receiving my check for 35¢.

XS NightClub's avatar

Your check will likely be for the full amount of your purchase spread out over a few years.

The class action that I got put in for Six Flags is full refund spread over 5 years with checks increasing in percentage of the amount each year. So it was like $8 this year, next year is about $15........etc...

Anybody that thinks this is unfair to Cedar Fair you can mail your checks directly to:

Cedar Fair

One Cedar Point Drive
Sandusky, Ohio 44870

Don't forget to sign the back of the check.

Last edited by XS NightClub,

Missed a full season at CP for the first time since 2007, maybe Sandusky will be back on my travel list next year.... Depends what CP has up their sleeve for 2023.

If my check bounces I'm hanging it up in my bodega

Paisley's avatar

Extending the passes to 2021 worked fine for my family but I can think of many circumstances this wouldn't work for. I think the plaintiff has a point but whether or not they should win I don't know. Did they attempt to explain that they would not be able to use a 2021 pass and ask for a refund for the 2020 pass before they filed a lawsuit? If Cedar Fair was accommodating people who reached out with similar circumstances but the plaintiff failed to reach out and ask then that's on them.

Uncle Steve's avatar

I think most people are just lazy.
If the refund isn't automatic, they don't bother to research and apply for it.

I should cancel my Planet Fitness Black Card while I'm thinking of it.
But I won't, because I'm lazy, and besides, I *might* decide to use it again one of these days.

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