Lawsuits against a venue over canceled weddings are on hold because the company has filed for bankruptcy.
Shade Trees & Evergreens, near Libertytown, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on July 27, court records show.
Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a business liquidates its assets and pays back creditors out of those funds. That differs from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which is a reorganization of a business that intends to continue operations and pay back creditors over time.
At least eight suits were filed claiming that the business owed couples lost deposits and fees after their weddings were canceled, according to the bankruptcy filing.
The events could not go on as planned after Frederick County officials determined that the venue was not properly permitted and had violated zoning regulations, officials said in a May 3 letter.
Frederick resident Colleen Elizabeth Boyenton was scheduled to have a hearing in Frederick County District Court on Friday on her suit against Shade Trees & Evergreens, but it was postponed due to the bankruptcy filing.
Boyenton’s complaint alleges that Shade Trees & Evergreens deposited a $2,250 payment from her, and it was not returned after the wedding was canceled.
She found out six days before her May 13 wedding that the venue could not host it, she said.
“I’m honestly still baffled that the owners have so little consideration for the hundred brides they took money from,” she said. “Shade Trees knew this was coming one day.”
With the help of her caterer, Boyenton found another venue that was available to host her wedding at the same time and day. It matched Shade Tree & Evergreens’ price, but because she has not received any money back from the original venue, she said it was like she paid twice.
“Honesty, I really just want my money back. Or at least an apology from them,” she said.
Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy automatically puts any attempts to collect from a company on hold. So, generally, complainants cannot collect from a business if the bankruptcy is granted.
An attorney for Christopher Corey and Kaitlin Keating, one couple seeking reimbursement, indicated they would try to sue the owners of Shade Trees because the owners as individuals are not protected by the bankruptcy stay.
The total liabilities of Shade Trees & Evergreens come to nearly $257,800, the bankruptcy filing shows. The property assets of the business total $42,476.
A trustee will hold a meeting with creditors on Sept. 26 in Hagerstown to identify assets and liabilities of Shade Trees & Evergreens. The trustee will determine what net proceeds, if any, the creditors are due after liquidating assets.
Secured creditors such as banks would be first to collect any funds they are owed, then priority unsecured creditors such as taxing authorities and unpaid employees would be next in line. If there are any remaining assets, they would be split among unsecured creditors like the couples bringing forth the lawsuits.
In low-asset cases, the trustee may determine that there is nothing that the company could distribute to the creditors.
Attorneys representing the business in bankruptcy court did not return calls for comment Friday, and no one answered a call to the Shade Trees & Evergreens phone number. Scott Hartinger, an attorney for the Shade Trees & Evergreens event planner, Natasha Termohlen, declined to comment on the case because he was not authorized to do so.
Representatives for Shade Trees have not commented publicly since an initial May 6 story in The Frederick News-Post.