We paid almost $5000 for our child to go on an international trip with his school. The contract we signed stated that we could not get a refund if we canceled. Our child got in trouble at the school for writing on the wall of a bathroom stall and the "punishment" was refusing to allow him to go on the trip. Now the school is refusing to give us back our money. We don't have the item (trip) we paid for in good faith and also are out $5000 even though it was them who canceled the trip for our child. Can I sue for my money?
1 Answer from Attorneys
While the frustration of paying for something never received is understandable, in the ordinary course a school has disciplinary authority over students. This may include taking away a privilege or right to participate as a consequence of an infraction (such as defacing school property).
The post suggests that the deposit was non-refundable per contract. Ordinarily a contract can specify whether a deposit is refundable and generally speaking a court will uphold contract terms (such as saying a deposit is not refundable) so long as the terms do not shock the court or otherwise violate public policy.
One approach may emphasize personal responsibility by requiring the child who "got in trouble" to reimburse his/her parents for the money they are out. Presumably a child old enough to go on an international trip is old enough to secure a part-time job or otherwise work off an obligation.
Depending on the terms of the contract, there may or may not be other rights to sue for breach of contract. However, the ability to sue does not necessarily suggest what an outcome might be. I am aware of one Maryland case where an adult student sued to recover money they had advanced an educational institution after the school kicked them out for violating a rule. The judge in that case allowed the school to keep the full funds although the student argued that they had not received what they paid for.
This response only offers general information without probing facts and without offering specific legal advice or creating any type of attorney/client relationship. The particular facts of any given situation may affect how general legal principles apply.
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