Getting Your Deposit Back for a Cancelled Event: Your Legal Rights

As the saying goes: the best-laid plans often go awry. When you are planning a wedding, conference, or other major event entailing hundreds — sometimes thousands — of attendees and many thousands of dollars in vendor and venue fees, then the sudden need to cancel the event can put you in a dire situation. You are suddenly left not only reeling from the change of plans but scrambling to get deposits returned and obligations voided.

Woman Signing A Contract

Your ability to terminate a contract, reclaim your deposit, and avoid a common breach of contract penalties depends entirely on the contract’s language. Hiring a contract litigation attorney on Long Island can help you interpret your contract and analyze the provisions that may allow you to retain your right to recover your deposit or generally avoid negative consequences of your cancellation. Call 1-833-TONALAW or contact us online to schedule a free, no-obligation case review where we will discuss your legal rights.

Your rights to reclaim your deposit may apply to a wide range of possible event types, including:

  • Weddings
  • Conferences
  • Trade shows
  • Workshops
  • Seminars
  • Reunions
  • Galas
  • Promotional or release events
  • Awards shows
  • Private performances

The main legal reasons you may be able to get your deposit back after an event cancellation include a force majeure clause, the impossibility doctrine, and the frustration of purpose doctrine.

Looking for information specific to COVID-19 and coronavirus-related cancellations? Visit our COVID-19 event cancellation page.

Force Majeure Clauses

A force majeure clause is a specific provision found within some contracts that can give one or all parties the opportunity to “back out” and not perform the contract given specific, unpredictable events.

Commonly listed events include:

  • War
  • Riots
  • Natural disasters
  • Government acts

Importantly, for a force majeure clause to be used to escape obligations related to a contract, the force in question must have been unforeseeable, and the contract itself must be fairly specific in order for the court to properly interpret it. Many contracts include language stating the above-named occurrences along with a phrase that goes something like: “or similar events…” In these cases, it is up to the courts to interpret what events can be deemed similar or if that language is too vague to be applied in the specific case at hand.

An “unforeseeable” event is one that is both uncommon and could not have reasonably been predicted. An afternoon shower is a common occurrence, for example, but a sudden flash flood may not be.

Importantly, a force majeure clause may exclude specific types of events, including public health events like a pandemic. In these cases, the contract’s named parties may have to look to an alternative type of force to justify their reasoning for why the force majeure clause should apply, such as an act of government specifically banning the type of gathering that was planned.

Impossibility Doctrine

If a force majeure clause may not be used to remove obligations under a contract, then the party in question may attempt to assert the impossibility doctrine.

This doctrine, put simply, asserts that the contract was completely impossible to perform given the circumstances.

While that may sound like a free ticket out of a contract, in reality, the impossibility doctrine is difficult to apply except in very specific situations. For one thing, the circumstances must make it “objectively impossible” for the contract to be performed, so if the situation is merely difficult or not ideal, the court will likely not accept the argument. Further, both parties must exhaust every alternative option before arriving at the conclusion that the contract cannot physically be enacted as intended.

Frustration of Purpose

Given the difficulty in using the common law doctrine of impossibility, contractual parties may instead consider taking action under another common law concept: frustration of purpose. This concept says that while the contract could, in theory, be performed, the original purpose behind the contract cannot be satisfied given the circumstances.

Frustration of purpose allows for more interpretation of the circumstances, and the parties involved no longer have to prove that they took every conceivable action before attempting to nullify the contract. Instead, they can merely state that it no longer “makes sense” for the contracted event to continue.

As an example, a concert venue that was booked for the purposes of a live performance may still be available for a performance to occur even if the specific band booked can no longer perform. However, if the intent of the concert was for the specific band to perform — as opposed to just any band — then it may be possible to assert that there is a frustration of purpose, potentially excusing non-performance of the contract.

Note that anyone arguing under the frustration of purpose doctrine has more legal grounds if the specific intended purpose of the event venue booking or vendor contract was named in the contract. If the purpose of the contract was vague, then the party may be obligated to still fulfill the contract or face penalties for non-performance.

What to Do If You Need to Cancel an Event and Want Your Deposit Back or Want to Avoid Penalties

  1. Review your contract for specific language related to event cancellations and circumstances beyond anyone’s control, i.e. a force majeure clause.
  2. Reach out to the vendor, venue, or service provider in question. Notify them of your circumstances, and politely request an exception to the contract language given what has occurred. Be specific as to your reasons for non-performance, and refer to the language of the contract if applicable.
  3. Consider bargaining in order to satisfy some measures of the contract rather than all of it. For instance, a caterer may agree to return some or all of a deposit if you agree to book them for a smaller event later on.
  4. Should the person you contact refuse your proposed agreement, speak to a higher authority to see if they can release all parties from the contract’s provisions. For example, a catering company may be owned by a hospitality company or a larger holding company, allowing you to supersede the caterer’s authority.
  5. Do not directly threaten legal action until you have spoken with a contract law attorney about your legal rights and available options. Informing the other party of adversarial litigation could severely limit your options while giving them the opportunity to mount their own claim or lawsuit.
  6. After reviewing your contract with an attorney, try to negotiate a more favorable agreement or settlement to avoid trial litigation or other time-consuming, expensive action.
  7. If no settlement can be reached, seek legal intervention via the courts through an experienced attorney.

Getting Your Deposit Back After an Event Cancellation on Long Island Is Not Always Easy, But the Contract May Be on Your Side

When circumstances outside anyone’s control forces an event cancellation, the best approach is to be diligent about researching your contract terms and your available rights. Know what the contract says before you approach the party with a request for a deposit return or similar beneficial actions. Do not provoke the party or threaten legal action before speaking to a lawyer; if you do intend to sue or seek a settlement, let your actual legal actions do the talking.

At TonaLaw, we understand the frustration, anxiety, and heartbreak that can come from a sudden event cancellation. Whether an unexpected pandemic wreaks havoc on our best-laid plans or a wedding gets canceled for whatever reason, the consequences can involve more than just missing out on a good time.

We promise to leverage our experience in litigating contracts and seeking optimal outcomes for our clients. You receive the benefit of our decades of experience dealing with all manner of individuals, businesses, and legal professionals on Long Island.

Let us help you determine your legal options and the best strategies available for avoiding penalties after an unexpected event cancellation. Reach out to us at any time by calling 1-833-TONALAW or by contacting us online, and we can schedule you for a free, no-risk case review.

What Our Clients Are Saying

TonaLawExcellentTonaLaw5.0 Based on 406 reviews fromSee all reviews review us onmichele mechwartmichele mechwart ★★★★★ Response from the ownerThank you for leaving us a 5 star review Michele! Aaron ThomasAaron Thomas ★★★★★ Finding Tona Law to represent me and my family with my accident was nothing short of a blessing. Their entire team at the firm from Ana down to Thomas have not only shown exceptional professionalism and attention to detail, but they go above and beyond to make sure I was informed every step of the way concerning my case. I highly recommend them and if I ever find myself in a similar situation, I would not hesitate to reach out to them.Response from the ownerAaron, thanks so much for the kind words and trusting us with your case. You were cool, calm and collected the entire way through your case and your trust in us is truly valued. We made an amazing team together. Randall GRandall G ★★★★★ It was a pleasure working with Tone law.. Thank you so much for your services..Response from the ownerRandall, it was a pleasure serving you. You are very welcome. Kate SKate S ★★★★★ Pleasure speaking with Juliet & would recommend TonaLaw to anyone!!! Super professionalResponse from the ownerThank you Kate. Your recommendation means the world to us. Yehuda PollYehuda Poll ★★★★★ Thomas is a pleasure to speak to. He is knowledgeable, personable, and always willing to listen and provide advice. I recommend TonaLaw for Personal injury-related inquiries.Response from the ownerYehuda, thank you for your kind words, and generous five star review. I am always here if you need me. Jon-Paul McConnellJon-Paul McConnell ★★★★★ A huge wealth of knowledge and experience. I highly recommend.Response from the ownerJP thank you for the kind words, and your recommendation, both mean so much to us. Yiny AvilaYiny Avila ★★★★★ Son los moremos la verdad que volvería con ellos nuevamenteResponse from the ownerYiny, you’re the best! We are here for you always if you ever need us. Jason SanchezJason Sanchez ★★★★★ Tonalaw helped me very well thank you !Response from the ownerJason, thank you for your amazing review. We are always here to help! Sarah JunellSarah Junell ★★★★★ They contacted me within the hour and even though they couldn't assist with my issue they referred me to someone who possibly can. Thanks TonaLawResponse from the ownerWe appreciate your feedback! At TonaLaw, we strive to provide prompt and helpful assistance to all our clients, even if we're unable to directly address their specific needs. We're glad we could refer you to someone who may be able to assist you further. If you ever require our services in the future or have any questions, please feel free to reach out. Thank you for considering TonaLaw. Alesha NadeemAlesha Nadeem ★★★★★ I was the first HR Generalist at Tonalaw. I had the honor of learning a great amount from the leadership team here. I highly recommend their services. They fight for what is right!Response from the ownerIt was such a pleasure working with you Alesha. Thank you so much for your kind review! Amy FreilichAmy Freilich ★★★★★ Having known Lauren for many years I know she especially will go out of her way to make sure your needs are surpassed. Her attentiveness, knowledge, and compassion keep her a cut above the rest.Response from the ownerAmy, thank you so much for leaving our firm a wonderful review. Lauren is truly an essential part of the TonaLaw team! Thanks again. David MottDavid Mott ★★★★★ The help I recieved at TonaLaw was second to none. I am unfamiliar with law and they were able to get me going in the right direction. Thank-YouResponse from the ownerWe're truly grateful for your kind words! We're delighted that we could provide you with the guidance you needed to move forward in the right direction. If you have any further questions or require additional assistance in the future, please don't hesitate to reach out. Thank you for trusting TonaLaw to assist you! Rose FrancisqueRose Francisque ★★★★★ Response from the ownerThank you for your review Rose! Kj MuchKj Much ★★★★★ The whole team has been extremely passionate, caring and understanding thru this whole process. This was a first for me. The firm came highly recommended thank you Ralph.Special thanks to Jayda a Ana. Thanks again.Response from the ownerThank you so much for your heartfelt words! We're thrilled to hear that our team's dedication and compassion made a positive impact on your experience. Your satisfaction and well-being are always our top priorities, especially during what can often be a challenging process. Thank you again for choosing TonaLaw! RONZA DIGIORGIORONZA DIGIORGIO ★★★★★ I was referred to Tona law by a friend following a horrific accident. Mr. Tona himself called me immediately from his family vacation and set me up with a team of professional , caring people that guided me through my recovery every step of the way. I would give 10 stars if i could !Response from the ownerIt was our privilege to assist you during such a difficult time, and we're glad that Mr. Tona and our team could be there for you when you needed us most. Your acknowledgment means the world to us, and we'd give 10 stars right back if we could! If there's ever anything else we can do for you, please don't hesitate to reach out. Thank you for choosing TonaLaw. Muhammad KhanMuhammad Khan ★★★★★ Jayda and laureen are so nice and professional and they really helped me from start to finish and they always respond me back. Please get help from tonalaw if you need any in regards to accidents. ThanksResponse from the ownerMuhammad, thank you so much for your recommendation. We're delighted that you felt well taken care of from start to finish. If you ever need assistance again in the future or know someone who does, please don't hesitate to reach out. Thanks again! Roxana PachecoRoxana Pacheco ★★★★★ My father, seek them out for a case in December and Ana has been fantastic. Ana has reassured all his concerns and has been nothing but amazing with any follow up questions that we have had. Besides being very compassionate, and friendly she’s also bilingual! Definitely would recommend anyone to TonaLaw!Response from the ownerThank you so much for your review! We're thrilled to hear about your positive experience with Ana and how she has been able to address all of your concerns with care and professionalism. We sincerely appreciate your recommendation and are here for any further assistance you might need. Best wishes from the TonaLaw team! Anthal ArizagaAnthal Arizaga ★★★★★ Penelope is so helpful and very easy to talk too, I’d recommended this law firm to anyone who is involved in an accident! You will be taken care of!Response from the ownerThank you so much for your wonderful review and recommendation! Penny is an integral part of our client care team. David KesslerDavid Kessler ★★★★★ Excellent law firm. Top notch attorneys and the friendliest receptionist Robin who was my first contact with the firm and her reception of me made me feel that I had made the right decision in finding a firm with people who really cared about meResponse from the ownerThank you so much for your wonderful review, David! Vanessa LopezVanessa Lopez ★★★★★ I have known Lauren for years and can confidently say, she goes above and beyond for her clients. She is always willing to help and go the extra mile and it is so very appreciated!Response from the ownerVanessa, thank you so much for this wonderful review! Julee HutchisonJulee Hutchison ★★★★★ I was given the opportunity to create and produce a newsletter for TonaLaw. Juliet Accomando directed the project and I found the whole experience to be very professional and well organized. Juliet was receptive to design ideas, responsive to emails and appreciative of our working relationship. It was a pleasure to work with TonaLaw. I look forward to future projects.Response from the ownerThank you so much for taking the time to leave such a fantastic review! We are thrilled to hear that you enjoyed the experience of creating the newsletter for TonaLaw. We truly appreciate your kind words about Juliet as well. We are equally excited about our upcoming projects! Marina DelfelMarina Delfel ★★★★★ Tona Law has been wonderful and so, so easy to work with! The entirety of my time working with them, their team has been extremely professional, kind and dedicated! I am so happy to have gotten to work with such an amazing team!Response from the ownerWe're incredibly grateful for your kind words about your experience working with TonaLaw. Thank you so much Marina! Lydia KaboolianLydia Kaboolian ★★★★★ Response from the ownerThank you for your amazing review! 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I enjoy all of our interactions.Response from the ownerThank you so much for your kind words! We truly appreciate you taking the time to leave us a review, and it means a lot to hear that you enjoy our interactions. Ed AlexanderEd Alexander ★★★★★ Tom is a great lawyer, but more importantly, Tom is a relatable person. My friend and colleague for over a decade, I’ve watched his dynamic entrepreneurial take-charge style develop a hard charging firm with a supportive culture and a team that does excellent work, achieves great results, and truly cares about clients. Tom’s energy is contagious – I always get a boost when I spend time with him. I highly recommend Tona Law.Response from the ownerEd, thank you so much for this amazing review. Your recognition of our hard work means the world to us especially because we pride ourselves on our client care and results. We appreciate your recommendation! MJPT-1MJPT-1 ★★★★★ Working with TonaLaw has been a wonderful experience. The kind staff which I am very pleased with is always professional and attentive. I highly recommend!Response from the ownerYour kind words about our team truly warm our hearts! We strive to provide a professional and attentive experience for every client, and it's so rewarding to know we're succeeding. Thank you for choosing TonaLaw and for the wonderful recommendation! Mitchell YorkMitchell York ★★★★★ Tom Tona and all the professionals at Tona Law have a deep commitment for fighting for what’s right. The firm is relentlessly focused on their clients’ cases, as a matter of empathy and professional pride. The company is process driven and disciplined in everything they do.Response from the ownerThank you for your wonderful 5-star review! Your acknowledgment of our dedication and disciplined approach truly means a lot to us. We remain committed to delivering the best for our clients and are grateful for your trust and support. Vanessa VajkoVanessa Vajko ★★★★★ TonaLaw has an amazing scholarship program opportunity for fellow veterans and incredibly kind people to talk with! The application process was also fairly prompt and seamless. I am so grateful for this scholarship and highly recommend that other veterans get on board with applying. Thank you again!!! :)Response from the ownerThank you for applying to our scholarship and for sharing your experience! It is a pleasure to be able to assist you in your education journey. Thank you for leaving such a thoughtful review and thank you for your service! Jennifer CaceresJennifer Caceres ★★★★★ I highly recommend using tonalaw. Lauren and Jada are amazing. Any questions or concerns I had they answered. I am happy I choose tonalaw .Response from the ownerThank you so much for your review Jennifer! We are so glad to hear that you were pleased with our responsiveness and thoroughness in addressing your questions and concerns. Your feedback is invaluable to us, and we are committed to providing our clients with the best possible legal representation. Thank you again for your kind words. We are honored to have you as a client. Carlos UmanaCarlos Umana ★★★★★ Excelente atención buena comunicación contestan mis preguntas con sinceridadResponse from the ownerThank you so much for your review Carlos! Your feedback is invaluable to us, and we will continue to strive to provide you and all of our customers with the outstanding service you deserve. Yanira Del ValleYanira Del Valle ★★★★★ Mr. Tona is such a wonderful human and attorney. So helpful, without a second thought, he shares his knowledge and experience. He helps makes this Plaintiff community a better one. Thank you!!!Response from the ownerThank you Yanira! It was so great meeting you. Marvin SortoMarvin Sorto ★★★★★ TonaLaw is a very reputable firm. Ana is such a great asset to the firm. She is also bilingual with many years of experienceResponse from the ownerThank you for your kind words Marvin! gary gundersengary gundersen ★★★★★ I’ve been to tona law several times already and I’ve had the pleasure to deal with Ana both time and she was amazing. Made sure all paperwork was in order and is super thorough with everything. Highly recommendedResponse from the ownerThank you so much for taking the time to share your positive experience with us at Tona Law. We are so glad to hear that you were pleased with the services provided by Ana. We are committed to providing our clients with the highest quality legal representation, and we are always striving to exceed expectations. Jennifer PorterJennifer Porter ★★★★★ Tom Tona puts so much emphasis and effort into developing a fantastic law firm, delivering excellent results for their clients and also staying at the forefront of law firm management skills. I am super impressed by my conversation and interaction with Tom and am happy to recommend him!Response from the ownerJennifer, thank you so much for this wonderful review. We are delighted to hear that you were impressed with your conversation and interaction with Tom. We strive to provide a positive and supportive experience for all of our clients, and we are so glad to hear you had such a positive interaction with Mr. Tona. Thank you again for your kind words. Janet SowinskiJanet Sowinski ★★★★★ Lauren, one of the paralegals at Tona Law is very knowledgeable, compassionate and very professional. She genuinely cares for her clients and is always willing to go the extra mile to help. Having known her for several years, i can confidently recommend both Lauren and Tona Law to anyone seeking great assistance.Response from the ownerJanet, thank you for your kind words and feedback. Lauren is a consummate professional and we will be sure to pass your feedback onto the team and to Lauren. Carmen SandovalCarmen Sandoval ★★★★★ Quiero darles las gracias por haberme representado en mi caso, felizmente estos abogados lograron ganar ni caso, y estoy muy satisfecha por su gran trabajo, hablan español y la señorita Ana es muy atenta y cordial y amable con sus clientes, muchisinas gracias x sus servicios ademas de ser rapidos, nos ayudan mucho especialmente a las personas qué sólo hablamos español, les recomiendo este servicio de abogados muy honestos. Muchas gracias👌😘Miguel MenaMiguel Mena ★★★★★ Ana is extremely knowledgeable and a great asset to your firm! Definitely will be coming back.Response from the ownerMiguel, we are always here for you if you need us. Ana is an amazing and valued team member. We will be sure to pass your feedback along to her and the team. Sandie RivasSandie Rivas ★★★★★ Ana is amazing! Working with her was extremely enjoyable. She is a great asset to Tonalaw and always eager to help!Darwin RomeroDarwin Romero ★★★★★ Ana was an absolute pleasure. She was incredibly knowledgeable and thoughtful throughout the entire process. Highly recommend!Emma SortoEmma Sorto ★★★★★ Ana is a wonderful personal. She is very talented and very hardworking. Best thing is that she is bilingual! Always willing to help anyone who is in need of a hand! You are in great hands at Tona Law!nicole garcianicole garcia ★★★★★ Couldn’t recommend Lauren more!!! I’ve known Lauren for years, she is a dedicated, hard worker and is so professional when it comes to her job. She really cares about her clients and doing the best for them.Dolceprincipessa xoDolceprincipessa xo ★★★★★ I highly recommend Will Ramos as a lawyer. He is a true professional. He explained my options with me and was very accessible & kept me updated! I also had the pleasure of working with Jayden. She was great as well. They assisted with my case and helped me tremendously! Highly recommend :)yessenia lopez ramosyessenia lopez ramos ★★★★★ I have know Attorney Will Ramos for many years. He is very detail oriented, a great advocate, and an empathetic individual.I have referred a few clients during their time of need over to Will and the friendly staff at Tona Law. He is willing to go above and beyond for others.CARLOS RODRIGUEZCARLOS RODRIGUEZ ★★★★★ I have known Will Ramos for 15 plus years and can attest to his character in placing the needs for others above his own. He is an asset to any organization and a team player with positive attitude.Jessica MalaveJessica Malave ★★★★★ I’ve known attorney Will Ramos for 16 years he always places the needs of others above his own. He is a caring man and super understanding and has a big heart.Bianca RamosBianca Ramos ★★★★★ Attorney Will Ramos is awesome the law firm is lucky to have someone like him part of their team. He genuinely cares for others and is always willing to lend a helping hand.Response from the ownerBianca, thank you for leaving a wonderful review for our firm. We are lucky to have Will Ramos as part of our team! Arianna RamosArianna Ramos ★★★★★ Attorney Will Ramos is nothing short of dedicated and hard working. Each case he works on demonstrates his passion for law and his care for his clients.Response from the ownerThank you for your review, Arianna! Will Ramos has been a wonderful asset to our team. JenneferJennefer ★★★★★ I've had the pleasure of knowing Lauren for quite a while now, and I must say, her dedication to her clients is truly remarkable. She takes immense pride in her work as a professional she seamlessly balances her role at Tona Law, where she's involved in legal matters. Having seen her commitment and skill firsthand, I can confidently recommend both Lauren and Tona Law to anyone seeking top-notch assistance.js_loader