Can Bride Get Damages for Emotional Distress from Wedding Venue?

Question (from Anonymous in NY)

Can we sue for emotional distress if our wedding reception was ruin?: can we sue for emotional distress if our wedding reception was ruin due a pipe that broke in the reception room a day before the wedding and the place didn’t have a back up place for us.

Response (from Attorney Rob):

No. You will more than likely not be able to sue the Wedding Venue for ’emotional distress’ due to their failure to have a back-up location in the event of a pipe rupture.

However, you will potentially have a claim for breach of contract for their failure to have the Venue ready as you had bargained for. In this event, you will be able to recover the an amount at least equal to the money that you paid, as well as any additional costs that you incurred as a result of having to re-book at the last minute, etc. These damages will be computed on real expenses (receipts, money actually paid, etc) as opposed to ‘general damages’ usually awarded for pain and suffering or distress.

Force Majuere Events and Wedding Venues.

I say ‘potential’ case for breach of contract against the Wedding Venue, because, it’s highly possible that a pipe burst may be considered a ‘force majuere’ event. In most written contracts (I assume that you have one), there is a provision, called a force majuere clause, that will discharge a party’s obligation where there is an unforeseen ‘act of God’ that precludes that party’s ability to perform. Thank tornado, hurricane, etc. Here, the Wedding Venue could argue that because this pipe burst was beyond their control, and therefore may not be subject to a breach of contract suit. Generally, any such monies paid under these contracts would be paid back, to prevent windfall.

I would advise seeking a full refund from the Wedding Venue. If they do not comply, then you have ‘damages’ for a breach claim and can certainly bring suit against them.

Moral of the Story: Wedding Venue Operators should have a force majuere provision for all the times when higher powers don’t want a wedding to go forward.