Legal Question in Business Law in California

We own a private lodge and have a client who became physically abusive to one of our staff members - the captain of the boat he was fishing on. We have posted on our website this disclaimer: "(Company Name) reserves the right to refuse service to anyone whose behavior before, during or after their trip is deemed offensive to us, our clients, or associates."

Is that sufficient to deny this client access to the boat without refund? I should mention he is on a remote island so we would not turn him out into the street, but would not allow him to go out on the boats to fish until his return flight, since he has shown himself to be a potential danger to himself and others, especially on the water.

Asked on 8/24/13, 3:35 pm

4 Answers from Attorneys

Joel Selik

I would say you could refuse to book him the next time, and you would have a good argument to not allow him on the ship, but unless the signed agreement provided otherwise, you would have trouble without refunding, especially as he will be stuck in his vacation without the fishing.

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Answered on 8/24/13, 3:41 pm

Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law

I'd say, based on your side of the story at least, that your position would meet with the approval of a judge or jury -- but without hearing the guest's side, one cannot be certain.

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Answered on 8/24/13, 3:42 pm
Edward Hoffman Law Offices of Edward A. Hoffman

Like Mr. Whipple, I'd like to hear the guest's side of the story. My answer below assumes that your version is fair, accurate, and provable. I might answer quite differently if I had reason to doubt any of these assumptions.

Based solely on what you've said, my view is somewhere between Mr. Whipple's and Mr. Selik's -- you can keep this man off the boat, but if he paid in advance for the excursions, you should make good-faith efforts to re-sell his spot to someone else. If you find a replacement, you should refund this guest's fare. Otherwise you can justly keep the money.

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Answered on 8/24/13, 4:48 pm
Keith E. Cooper Keith E. Cooper, Esq.

In the language you quoted, you would have the right to refuse service. It does not say you don't have to give a refund. "Refuse service" would typically mean that you are refusing to take the person's money in the first place. If you have accepted payment, and there is no explicit provision in your terms and conditions of sale that you can later exclude the person without giving a refund, then you would have to give the money back. The other problem you might have is the lack of a description of what behavior you consider offensive. Legally, a person has a right to know what is expected of them when they enter into an agreement. Generally, if what the person is doing is not illegal or explicitly prohibited, they could reasonably expect that it is acceptable.

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Answered on 9/09/13, 4:54 pm

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