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  • Welcome to Wedding Industry Law Online!

    Wedding Industry Law is your online resource for legal news and education on running a wedding business. We hope you find the articles, videos, and information helpful. If you have any comments, news tips, or areas that you would like to see covered, please let us know!

    Wedding Industry Law is edited by Wedding Lawyer and Trial Attorney Rob Schenk. Contributing blogger Ayisha Lawrence also kicks out some of the jams, too.

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What does a “Limited Liability” clause do?

In the wedding and event industry, breach of contract actions against wedding vendors are one of the most prevalent forms of lawsuits. And in a breach of contract action, an angry client is going to try to get as much money out of you as possible. Why wouldn’t they? If you’re a wedding professional, you’re probably a millionare, amirite?

If the client brings a breach of contract lawsuit, the law is going to provide them with compensatory damages, meaning damages that flow reasonably from the breach. So for example, if you’re a wedding photographer and let’s say you miss the last hour, the bride is going to sue and be able to get whatever value that last hour is, or if you’re a DJ and you miss the last hour. Maybe, as a planner, you are an hour late, and it causes the event to go an hour later, causing a chain reaction of anguish that forces the client to pay for all the other vendors for another hour. Or, you’re a florist and you don’t supply all the bridal bouquets as ordered, or they are in the incorrect color or type. Whatever. I don’t know flowers.

At the end of the day, the disgruntled client’s lawyer is going to try to quantify that as best they can.

Sneaky lawyers (like me) are going to try to get more damages than that.

So, one of the key contractual provisions that you want to consider having in your client contract is called a limited liability clause. Limited liability basically says, no matter what type of lawsuit that is filed, the damages that the client can receive is limited to XYZ. Often, limited liability clauses will limit the damages available in a lawsuit to the amounts actually paid to the vendor.

So let’s say that the contract value is $5,000. If you heinously mess up, don’t show up, or something similar, then the amount of money that court is going to be able to award is $5,000. DISCLAIMER: This is not the same from state to state and will NOT apply to certain claims. For example, if you beat the crap out of the client, they WILL BE ABLE TO SUE YOU FOR LOTS MORE THAN $5000.

The public policy behind the limited liability clause is that business owners should limit damages only to those that are truly foreseeable and flow naturally from the breach. Understanding non-economic damages, like pain and suffering, is difficult to assess, and therefore attempt to mitigate through insurance, policies, etc.

Getting the Client to Pay Your Attorney’s Fees

Like most lawyers,  I get paid in US Dollars and in pancake.

Like most lawyers, I get paid in US Dollars and in pancake.

In the American judicial system, for the most part, everybody has to pay their own way. If there is a problem with the wedding, the wedding vendor will have to pay her own legal fees and court costs, and the clients will have to pay their own legal fees and court costs. That’s just how we do.

There are some statutes that will shift this, i.e., the losing party has to pay for the winning party’s attorney’s fees. So for example, copyright infringement is like that. Most of the time, if you register with the US Copyright office a photograph, rap song, nude drawing of Ryan Gosling, or whatever you got, and somebody infringes on it, if you are successful in your lawsuit, you can likely get your attorneys fees paid for. Another example, in Georgia, if someone brings a completely crazy claim against you, or is unreasonably litigious beyond all objective standards, and you are successful, then you may be awarded attorneys fees. These statutory exceptions are rare, and are almost always not applicable to shift the default rule that everyone pays their own way.

However, public policy allows business owners to contract against the default rule that everybody goes ‘legal Dutch.’ (my term). So a clause that you might consider is an attorneys fees clause. This will let the client know that if you are successful in a claim against the client, then the client will not only have to pay the ultimate judgment, but will have to fork over some extra to compensate you for attorney’s fees.

And again, this type of clause is important because when you’re sitting at your dining room table trying to figure out like, “Okay, these are my expectation damages. This is how much it’s going to cost me to bring this lawsuit and I’ve assessed it’s worth it in the long run to go to court,” also being awarded attorneys fees might help sway whether or not you ultimately decide to pull the trigger.