I am in MA. I made arrangements for several friends to stay at a hotel together in March, with a no refund agreement (in text) so that if someone backed out the hotel would still be paid for. Someone backed out and has been repeatedly sending me e-mails asking me for a refund. I explained to him that there is a no refund policy in place, I can not afford to refund him even if I wanted to, and I'm disabled and on a fixed income (SSDI.) I had both SSDI and a small job up until April when I was fired from my job due to absences.
He claims that I stole his money, lied about the use, and not refunding it amounts to theft. I have receipts from the hotel we stayed at which cost a whole lot more than what he chipped in. I had opted at this point not to respond to these false accusations, as they were amounting to harassment.
He's sent me another e-mail tonight requesting my address so that he can move forward with suing me in small claims court.
Legally speaking, if this goes to court can he use my lack of response against me? I was in communication with him until he accused me of using his money for a personal situation other than the hotel.
Secondly, should this go to court: what are the chances of me being expected to pay this money back despite 1. my limited income 2. the money being used for exactly what it was sent to be used for (his accusation being that the money wasn't spent on the hotel) and 3. the written clause months in advance that refunds weren't possible, to ensure a hotel was booked for those that did show up?
1 Answer from Attorneys
The issue of your limited income has no bearing on this, so the real issue is whether he is entitled to a refund. In a small claims setting, I think the Court's judgment could possibly go either way. From my personal perspective, however, I think the key issue is whether he was fully notified in advance that the money he gave you was going to be nonrefundable because of the hotel's restrictions. If he was, and if you subsequently booked the hotel with his money (as part of the total money package), then I think he should not be able to get his money back from you. The question I have, however, is who actually stayed in the hotel room? Did someone replace this person, or was the group simply one person short because he backed out? Personally, I think this guy's issue is more with the group who stayed in the room, rather than you. If someone replaced him, I think he should be going after that person, because they got a free ride on his money. On the other hand, if the group was simply one person short, but their total bill was less because the hotel applied his deposit to their bill, then I think he needs to direct his collection effort and any small claims case against them, and failure to do so could be a fatal flaw in his case. As I said in the beginning, however, I think a small claims case could go either way on this, but this is how I view it.