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Malhan v. The Anthony Robbins Companies

2006 WL 776778 (U.S. Dist. Ct. D. N.J. 2006) (Unpublished)

CONTRACTS; REFUNDS—Parties to an agreement are free to negotiate the conditions for a refund and such an agreement may limit one’s remedies.

Two individuals, by signed contract, arranged to attend a seminar program. The contract had “clear procedures for obtaining refunds due to dissatisfaction with the Seminar. Couched as a ‘Money-Back Guarantee,’ the contract stat[ed] that ‘[i]n the unlikely event that, having participated in the first half of [the Seminar] you decide that particular section is not right for you, simply notify a designated [] official, in writing at the program and turn in your notebook, name badge and cost materials—we will fully refund your tuition for that session of Master University.’”

The attendees claimed to have been “verbally assured in advance ... that they would be able to sit together for the duration of the Seminar.” Upon their arrival, they were told that no such preference could be assured and, indeed, they were “assigned to different groups.” For three days, they disputed their seating arrangement, but attended the Seminar. Then, they chose to leave the Seminar of their own accord. They were never asked to leave. Subsequently, they “failed to follow the refund procedures outlined in the Contract.” They did not return their seminar materials. A few months later, they tried to negotiate for a refund, but no full refund was ever offered.

The Court, after examining the evidence, and after the construing the attendees’ complaint liberally, needed to decide whether the seminar company had breached the contract by not guaranteeing the attendees’ preferred seating at the seminar. With respect to that allegation, the Court found that no guarantee was made and the contract never provided such a guarantee. Further, the Court found that the attendees walked out of the seminar, and had not been asked to leave. According to the Court, this meant that there was “no support for the contention that [the seminar company] committed any breach related to [the attendees’] early departure from the Seminar.” Further, the contract set forth specific conditions that would give rise to a refund. Parties to a contract are free to agree on conditions for a refund and, here, the attendees never contended that they had met those conditions. They neither turned in their seminar materials nor badge. They never requested a refund in writing at the seminar. Consequently, to the Court, the seminar company had no obligation to provide a refund. Similarly, absent a breach by the seminar company, the attendees were “not entitled to reimbursement for the time spent at the Seminar.” Further, the contract clearly set forth that even if a refund was sought, there would be “no reimbursement for ... transportation/accommodation costs or for any other costs.”

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