Suit filed over Vancouver marathon cancellation

Portland man’s class-action lawsuit follows last week’s cancellation of September event

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Courts Reporter

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A Portland man has filed a class-action lawsuit against Energy Events — the company that stages the Vancouver USA Marathon– on behalf of all Oregon consumers who registered for the race, alleging unlawful trade practices and unjust profit at another’s expense.

The Portland law office Olsen Daines filed the complaint Saturday on behalf of Cory Bradley in U.S. District Court in Portland. The complaint follows the cancellation of the 2017 Vancouver USA Marathon and seeks a jury trial for restitution over registration fees.

Bradley said he saw Energy Events’ advertising for the 2017 marathon July 31 and paid $183.24 in registration fees for him and his wife. They believed if they paid the fee, they could attend the Sept. 17 marathon, according to the complaint.

The weekend festivities set for Sept. 15 to 17 included the marathon, half marathon, a 5K, kids run, bike ride and beer festival, among other activities.

However, on Friday, the company announced it was canceling the marathon after “careful consideration for several weeks and reviewing the finances.” It said it would not issue full refunds, the suit states, because it already spent the incoming registration fees for marketing, deposits and operational overhead.

The Vancouver USA Marathon typically has more than 3,000 participants each year. But just a month before race day, pre-registration was only about 65 percent of that. Race organizers attributed the low turnout to last year’s course-marking error — the 2016 race was 1,126 feet short. That error led to the Boston Marathon announcing it would not accept any qualification times from the marathon.

Bradley argues that Energy Events should have known when it was advertising the marathon in July that it would be unable to provide the race. And the company failed to disclose that last year’s course mistake had damaged its credibility, resulting in low pre-registration, the suit states.

The company didn’t disclose that it was “essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul with incoming registration fees,” according to the lawsuit.

Energy Events failed to disclose it was using the registration fees to fund its advertising, promotion and other costs and that the event would be canceled if it did not meet certain registration numbers, the suit states, and registrants would not be entitled to a full refund of their fee.

“No consumer would have paid defendant’s registration fee had defendant not made false representations and failed to disclose material information about its marathon,” the complaint said.

The suit says that the exact amount in controversy exceeds $5 million, but the number of aggrieved consumers in Oregon can be determined based on registration records and data. Bradley argues that the bulk of registration fees were collected in the Portland metro area.

“Defendant’s violation of (Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act) as alleged above was reckless, in pursuit of profit, and constituted a wanton, outrageous and oppressive violation of the right of Oregon consumers to be free from unlawful trade practices,” the suit states.

Energy Events should not be allowed to retain the registration fees it collected, according to the complaint, and if it’s determined the company willfully, recklessly, knowingly and intentionally violated the law, Bradley and the Oregon class are entitled to recover actual damages or $200 in statutory damages, whichever is greater, including interest, fees and costs.

The complaint also seeks certification as a class action suit.

Efforts to reach Brian Davis, the marathon’s race director, were unsuccessful Monday.

Bradley’s attorney, Michael Fuller of Olsen Daines, said in a phone interview that this complaint is the first to be filed over the registration fees, and he plans to file another on behalf of Washington consumers in the next week or two, “unless they do the right thing and give everyone full refunds.”

Fuller said that it’s Energy Events’ problem if it already spent the money on vendors, and they should be insured for incidents like this.

“I think everyone is disappointed the race isn’t’ taking place, but I’m not going to let Oregon consumers hold the bag for their mistake,” he said.