Derek Nash and Tanya Walsh are two parents who are haven recently found themselves embroiled in a legal battle, as they have been taken to the small claims courts, due to the loss suffered by a fellow parent, Julie Lawrence.
The sum? £15.95.
The reason? That their son, Alex, was a ‘no-show’ at a children’s birthday party!
This all started just before Christmas, when Alex Walsh- who attends a local nursery in Torpoint, Cornwall – was invited to a friend’s birthday party Plymouth Ski Slope and Snowboard Centre. His parents confirmed that their son would indeed be attending said party, but when the day came they realised that unfortunately Alex was actually due to spend some quality time with his grandparents.
His mother told Apex News; “Julie Lawrence and I weren’t friends, we didn’t talk to each other at school, but I felt bad about Alex not going to the party. I searched for the party invite afterwards and I’m not sure we even had one.”
She added: “But to be invoiced like this is so over the top – I’ve never heard of anything like it. It’s a terrible way of handling it – it’s very condescending.”
Her husband, Derek, said that he did not have the contact details of Julie Lawrence, and so therefore he was unable to inform her on the day. The twist came last week, when Derek and Tanya found a brown envelope with a £15.95 “no show fee” left in their son Alex’s schoolbag. A teacher, apparently at the behest of the affronted mother Julie Lawrence, had slipped this note into the bag during class.
The reason for this ‘invoice’? The angry mother has claimed that Alex’s failure to attend her child’s birthday party has caused her a loss, and that his parents were provided with all the necessary details to contact her about his absence, so they should have no excuses. It was further communicated that non-payment of this money would result in the parents being taken to the small claims court.
After Derek found the letter he visited Julie (her address being on the invoice), in order to inform her that “I would not be paying her the money”.
In a short statement, Lawrence said: “All details were on the party invite. They had every detail needed to contact me.”
When establishing whether or not this angry mother has a valid claim, we firstly would need to consider whether an actual contract had been formed. The primary requirement is that there is an offer and acceptance. In this instance, however, Derek and Tanya had shown no signs of agreeing to such contractual terms, treating this birthday invite as an informal invitation for their son.
Mrs. Lawrence cannot impose such terms of the contract (with its penalties for a no-show and commitment to appear at the party) on the other party without their consent. Therefore she is more than welcome to take this to court, but one reckons that is unlikely that she will be able to make much headway.
We must also turn to the placement of the note into the bag during class. Regardless of who was ultimately responsible for it getting there, it must be pointed that this is clearly against school policy to allow this kind of behaviour to go on, and not a proper way to inform somebody of a breach of contract taking place.
Finally, there is the issue of loss , which requires proof of a recognisable loss with a legitimate link (causation). This particular issue would depend on whether or not his absence has actually made a difference (depending on whether or not she was paying per head or just for the whole session). She should have really made a continuity plan and had a replacement lined up just in case such a situation arose – poor management!
Whilst it seems beyond the realms of possibility (in this author’s mind!) that she could ever succeed in court, Ms. Lawrence can be credited, however, with having a particularly proactive credit control and debt collection department.