Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Cedar Point Pass Holders Want Refunds for COVID-Shortened Season

A large rounded metal track bends toward the ground from several hundreds of feet in the air with six carts carrying people in them.

Cedar Point challenge to claims from 2020 season pass holders ascends to state Supreme Court as pandemic litigation weaves throughout the U.S. legal system.

A large rounded metal track bends toward the ground from several hundreds of feet in the air with six carts carrying people in them.

Cedar Point challenge to claims from 2020 season pass holders ascends to state Supreme Court as pandemic litigation weaves throughout the U.S. legal system.

The roller coaster of COVID-19 has spun into a dizzying number of lawsuits across the country. The pandemic “is expected to lead to more litigation than any other incident in U.S. history,” according to one legal publication.

Court cases have been filed over closures that affected gym memberships, baseball season ticket holders, airline flights, college classes and housing, and ski resort passes. Cedar Point Amusement Park and its 2020 season pass holders are in a dispute that has wound through state courts to the Supreme Court of Ohio.

In 2020, Cedar Point delayed its typical May opening after state-issued health orders in March kept amusement parks closed. Laura Valentine had purchased a 2020 season pass to the park. She filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of those who purchased season passes for that year, seeking refunds.

Cedar Point’s parent company, Cedar Fair, announced in April 2020 that it was extending all 2020 season passes through the 2021 season. The park reopened for season pass holders in July 2020 with certain pandemic restrictions.

The Erie County Common Pleas Court dismissed Valentine’s lawsuit, pointing to the terms and conditions of the season passes. Valentine appealed to the Sixth District Court of Appeals, which overturned the trial court ruling. Cedar Fair appealed to the state Supreme Court, which accepted the case.

Amusement Park Contends Season Pass Has Restrictions
Cedar Fair argues that season pass holders don’t have absolute rights to access the park without any limitations. The company notes that season passes grant “a revocable license” to the holder for admission “on any regularly scheduled operating day of the season.” The season pass states that operating dates and hours can change without notice, and all rides and attractions are subject to closings and cancellations for weather or other conditions.

The company contends that if the season pass is a contract, its terms weren’t breached. Cedar Point season pass holders in 2020 received an extension of their access to park through 2021, and they suffered no damages by the two-month closure in 2020, the company maintains.

Pass Holders Argue Refunds Are Due
Valentine understands that Cedar Point closed in accordance with state orders, but she asserts the company can’t keep the money season pass holders paid when they weren’t able to access the park for two months. Nor can Cedar Fair remedy its breach of the contract by giving pass holders access in 2021, she argues. She maintains that pass holders are entitled to the return of the pass purchase price for the months they were denied access to Cedar Point in 2020.

Oral Argument Details
The Court will hear four appeals on May 24 and four more cases, including Valentine v. Cedar Fair, on May 25. Oral arguments begin each day at 9 a.m. The arguments will be streamed live online at and broadcast live on the Ohio Channel, which also archives them.

In addition to these highlights, the Court’s Office of Public Information released preview articles today about each case, available through the case-name links.

Tuesday, May 24
Jury Trials
A Hamilton County man was convicted of murder in 1995 and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. In 2002, he sought and was granted a new trial based on newly discovered evidence . In 2006, a jury acquitted him. The man then sought to be a declared a “wrongfully imprisoned individual,” which is the first step in the process to be financially compensated for the time he was incarcerated. He requested a jury trial, which was denied. In a 2020 bench trial , the trial court denied his request to be deemed wrongfully imprisoned. In McClain v. State, the Court will consider whether the man was entitled to a jury trial.

County Lawsuits
A 77-year-old man died while living in an Ottawa County nursing home. The man’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against “County of Ottawa d/b/a/ Ottawa County Riverview Nursing Home.” The county requested that the case be dismissed because the county board of commissioners weren’t named as a party. The county maintained it and the nursing home are “sui juris,” a Latin term meaning they are incapable of being sued. In Estate of Fleenor v. County of Ottawa, the Court will determine if any claims against the county or a county agency must name the board of commissioners as a party.

Custody Battles
A girl’s maternal grandparents shared custody of her with the child’s father. After the father’s death, the mother made attempts to retake custody of her daughter. Campbell v. Speelman is a disagreement about the standards for determining whether a parent can regain custody from a third party, such as grandparents. The grandparents maintain that courts first must find that circumstances changed for the child or custodian, then consider the child’s best interest. The mother counters that parents shouldn’t have to show a change in circumstances to reestablish custody.

Sentence Appeals
A Cuyahoga County man was indicted in 1997 on 38 counts associated with sexual assaults. The charges included rape with a sexually violent predator specification that permitted a life sentence. The man had no prior convictions for a sexually related offense. The man accepted a plea bargain, which included two counts of rape each with the sexually violent predator specification, and he agreed to a 20-years-to-life prison sentence. Years later, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that a sexually violent predator specification can’t be imposed if the offender had no prior sexually related offense record. In State v Stansell, the offender seeks to vacate his life sentences. The county prosecutor counters the life term should stand because the man agreed to the specification as part of a plea deal to avoid a harsher sentence.

Wednesday, May 25
Juvenile Offender Classifications
In re D.R. involves a teenager placed on probation and designated as a tier I juvenile offender registrant, mandating that he adhere to several sex-offender registration duties. Once the teen completed his disposition, the juvenile court reviewed his progress. Because of the teen’s age at the time of his offense, state law prohibited the court from removing his tier I classification. The teen argues the law is unconstitutional because it prevents juvenile courts from using their discretion to decide whether to remove a classification. The Hamilton County prosecutor responds that the law ensures that older juvenile offenders follow registration duties for a meaningful time period before their classification can be removed.

Appeals Court Review
A Franklin County man revealed to his stepbrother that he was having an affair with the stepbrother’s girlfriend. The three had a confrontation, and the man shot his stepbrother to death. The man argued he shot in self-defense but was convicted of murder. On appeal, he argued that under a 2019 change in state law, the prosecutor had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the shooting wasn’t justified. In State v. Messenger, the offender argues an appeals court must conduct a “sufficiency of the evidence” review and affirm that the prosecutor proved the act wasn’t in self-defense.

Federal COVID Funds
In June 2021, the state stopped accepting federal money that increased weekly benefits for unemployed workers during the pandemic. The governor stated that employers were having trouble filling job openings and the extra benefits discouraged people from returning to work. Three unemployed workers sued. In State ex rel. Bowling v. DeWine, the governor and job and family services director maintain that Ohio law gives the state the option to participate in federal unemployment programs, but it doesn’t force participation. The unemployed workers argue that the executive branch must maximize all benefits for unemployment for Ohioans by accepting available federal funds.