FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – A Hardin County wedding venue owner has been ordered to pay more than $27,000 in restitution to nine couples who had their weddings abruptly canceled by the firm, or who paid for professional services they did not receive.
Following a consumer protection action taken by Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Hardin Circuit Court judge ordered Gabriella Farm LLC, located in Eastview, and its sole owner Nicolle Thompson, to refund couples from Bullitt, Jefferson and Meade counties. The court also ordered Thompson to pay an additional $20,000 in civil penalties, and permanently banned her from operating another wedding service in the future.
In a November 2018 lawsuit, Beshear sought to hold Thompson accountable for violating Kentucky’s Consumer Protection Act, when she took payments from couples, did not pay vendors or provide agreed-upon services, and then ceased all communications with them, while keeping the money.
The lawsuit alleged that on Sept. 6-7, 2018, Thompson or someone working for her called at least three couples with weddings scheduled in September and October of that year and canceled them, claiming that Gabriella Farm had been sold. The caller allegedly threatened the couples with legal action for defamation if they posted negative reviews on social media. At that time, however, Gabriella Farm had not been sold and was not under contract to be sold.
The sudden cancellation of these all-inclusive weddings forced most of the couples to either quickly come up with thousands of dollars more to secure new venues and vendors, or to postpone their weddings because all of their available funds had been paid to Thompson.
In another instance, a Jefferson County groom, whose affidavit appears in the lawsuit, was forced to end his contract with Thompson less than a month before his wedding.
According to the groom, he read a bad online review about the wedding venue that caused him to contact his vendors who were supposed to have been booked by Thompson. He discovered only one vendor, a videographer, had received a deposit. The cake designer, photographer, DJ and bartender all said they were unaware of his wedding. While the couple did marry, they have not received a refund for the more than $11,000 they paid Thompson for the wedding and vendors.
“We will continue to take any action necessary to secure refunds for the brides and grooms who were conned out of not only their money, but their joyful wedding day memories,” Beshear said. “This action will help to protect other couples from the defendant’s deceitful acts.”
The Office of the Attorney General is charged with enforcing Kentucky’s Consumer Protection Act, which protects Kentuckians from unfair, false, misleading or deceptive acts or practices in trade or commerce and from scams.