Class action suit against Dorney Park owner over COVID-19 shutdowns reimbursement can proceed, judge rules

A federal court in Ohio ruled a class action lawsuit against Dorney Park’s parent company over reimbursement for COVID-related closures can proceed.

The plaintiffs are seeking prorated refunds for 2020 season passes that largely could not be used because of pandemic shutdowns at the 13 parks in the U.S. and Canada owned by Ohio-based Cedar Fair. Some parks opened late and some never opened at all. Dorney opened in July 2020, about two months later than scheduled.

“Instead of giving season passholders proportionate refunds, Cedar Fair kept 100% of their money,” said Dean Kateris of Dovel and Luner, the California law firm handling the suit. “Our class action against Cedar Fair seeks fair refunds for season passholders who did not get what they paid for.”

Cedar Fair contends that disclaimers on its websites — all ticket sales are final, there are no refunds or exchanges and operating dates and hours are subject to change without notice — were sufficient to make consumers aware that no refunds would be issued.

On Thursday, Judge James G. Carr of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio denied Cedar Fair’s motion to dismiss the suit, saying reasonable consumers would have expected prorated refunds.

The plaintiffs made the case that Cedar Fair “did not fairly explain to consumers its intent if [an event beyond its control] caused it to close its parks” and that the consumers did not have any opportunity to bargain over the terms of season passes, the judge wrote.

Of Cedar Fair’s properties, California’s Great America, Minnesota’s Valleyfair and Canada’s Wonderland never opened. King’s Dominion in Virginia and Carowinds in North Carolina were closed for the vast majority of the season, opening only for a brief “Taste of the Season” event in November and December.

Parks that opened imposed restrictions such as reservation requirements, and substantially restricted ride and attraction access. Dorney’s restrictions included online reservations, ride capacity limits and temperature screenings to enter. Visitors also were required to complete a health screening declaration 24 hours prior to admission.

“While proving that such is the case might well be difficult for the plaintiffs, at this point I believe that they have adequately stated a claim for relief,” Carr concluded in allowing the lawsuit to proceed.

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