A lawsuit is targeting an Albemarle County vineyard for approximately $32,000 in compensation for a wedding canceled due to COVID-19.
The lawsuit, filed Oct 23 against Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, alleges the vineyard changed a wedding contract and declined to reimburse the deposit after Washington, D.C.-area couple Heather Heldman and Amir Neeman canceled their wedding. Heldman’s father, Andrew Heldman, is listed as the sole plaintiff.
Per the lawsuit, the couple selected Pippin Hill as their wedding venue in December 2018 and, over the months to come, deposited $32,439 toward a total cost of $70,094.
The couple was set to wed in June 2020 but postponed their wedding in light of a series of executive orders from Virginia’s governor that limited the size of gatherings in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.
The couple postponed their wedding to Oct. 9 and collaborated on an updated contract that included a “force majeure” clause that the couple intended to allow for a refund in the event the wedding was unable to be conducted “as originally planned.”
The lawsuit also included a portion of the updated agreement signed by the elder Heldman that agrees that in the event Pippin Hill, which is in North Garden, was unable to be a venue due to governmental stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions that would “significantly” reduced the number of guests able to attend, the clients could elect to terminate the agreement and receive a refund for any deposits made.
After conducting a survey in July, Heldman found that fewer than 10% of the 181 invited guests planned to attend, with an additional 23% responding “maybe” and citing travel concerns from their home nations overseas and out of state. In light of the responses, the Heldmans decided to cancel the wedding, according to the complaint.
However, Pippin Hill declined to refund the deposit, citing Virginia’s allowance of events of up to 250 people and plans to host 11 more wedding through the end of the year. As of Oct. 22, Virginia also does not have any quarantine requirements for people arriving in the commonwealth from other domestic or international locations. The venue instead offered to refund $9,564.
“Defendant, under the belief that it was then technically legal to hold a wedding in Albemarle County, insisted that it would not release the Heldmans from their contract,” the lawsuit reads. “Defendant gave the Heldmans and ultimatum: (1) reschedule the wedding again, or (2) the wedding would go forward on October 9, 2020 — with or without guests.”
The lawsuit further argues that the couple could not safely hold a wedding with 150-plus guests in an event space with a 200-person capacity given the governor’s guidelines that event spaces should be capped at 50% capacity.
The Heldmans are seeking $32,439 plus interest in compensation for the alleged breach of contract.
In a statement provided to Daily Progress news parter NBC29, a representative for Pippin Hill said the business was disappointed by the Heldmans’ decision to file a lawsuit instead of working toward a mutually acceptable decision.
According to the statement, Pippin Hill’s COVID daily operating and service protocols are “above and beyond the CDC guidelines, including installation of hospital grade air purification systems in our event space,” and the vineyard was capable of hosting their wedding within the Albemarle County and state guidelines.
“While we are sympathetic and understanding of these challenging times for all, we are committed to safely employing our dedicated staff, and their families depend on their paychecks,” the statement reads.
No hearings currently are scheduled.