Carowinds season pass holders part of lawsuit demanding refunds over COVID closures

Carowinds’ season ticket holders are part of a class-action lawsuit against the park’s parent company Cedar Fair demanding 2020 pass refunds. (Observer file photo)

Carowinds’ season ticket holders are suing its parent company Cedar Fair for 2020 pass refunds.

On Thursday, the entertainment company’s motion to dismiss the case was denied by a federal judge in Ohio.

Cedar Fair, based in Sandusky, Ohio, operates 13 amusement parks in the U.S. and Canada, which includes Carowinds. Carowinds is a 400-acre amusement park that straddles North and South Carolina in Charlotte and Fort Mill.

In a class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Ohio West Division court, season pass holders are suing Cedar Fair for refunds because of lost or shortened 2020 season due to the COVID pandemic. Carowinds missed its entire summer season in 2020 but opened for its “Taste of the Season” event in November and December.

Cedar Fair advertises season passes as providing unlimited visits when the parks are open, which is generally for 130 to 140 days each year, according to the lawsuit.

The cost of a season ticket this year at Carowinds starts at $130, while a daily ticket online costs $47 or $75 at the gate, according to the park’s website.

Plaintiffs in the case say Cedar Park failed to disclose that if an unexpected event forced parks to close for a substantial portion of the year, the parks would not return any of the season-pass holders’ purchase price. Cedar Fair was “deceptive and unfair” by refusing to refund any portion of the pass price, according to the lawsuit.

However, Cedar Fair argued in court documents that all of its park websites and passes state: “I agree that all ticket sales are final. There are no refunds or exchanges.”

“A reasonable consumer would not expect the company to return a portion of the purchase price based on the disclaimer actually printed on the tickets,” Cedar Fair said in the court filing.

Damages would be sought later

Cedar Fair also honored 2020 passes through the 2021 season, providing a substitute of equal or greater value, according to court documents.

The plaintiffs argued that the 2021 season was not equal because of COVID-related restrictions when parks reopened, including limited capacities that required reservations.

At Carowinds, reservations for single ticket buyers and season pass holders dates filled up fast.

There are potentially millions of 2020 pass holders, Dovel & Luner in California, a law firm representing the plaintiffs in the case, said in an email to The Charlotte Observer on Friday.

It’s unclear how many Carowinds season pass holders are part of the lawsuit or how much total compensation is sought. “Damages will be quantified later in the case,” Dovel & Luner said.

Cedar Fair does not comment on pending litigation, company spokesman Gary Rhodes said Friday.