The organizers of the Washington D.C. Marathon, who after canceling the March 23 event declined to refund registration fees to 6,801 runners entered, have been named in a class action lawsuit filed in D.C. Superior Court.
The suit, filed on Friday on behalf of one unidentified runner for now, seeks to collect more than $400,000 that H2O obtained from registration fees of between $65 and $95. Instead of refunding money, H2O said it would defer the fees to next year's race.
"At this point we're just exploring the possibility of acquiring refunds for the runners," said lawyers William Claiborne, who filed the suit with two other local lawyers. "Perhaps in the future we will also explore getting refunds for those that are out travel expenses."
H2O Entertainment President John Stanley could not be reached to comment. A recorded voice message at the company's Arlington headquarters referred callers to send inquiries in writing to a post office box.
At the time, Stanley said he canceled the race because of the impending war and rising anxiety over possible terrorist attacks. The mayor's office and many runners entered in the race disputed that assertion.
A host of runners, some from as far away as China, paid for airfare and lodging in preparation for the race. Stanley's decision, just four days before the race, caught them by surprise. With the likelihood of war growing steadily as race day approached, H2O representatives told participants that the event would go on "no matter what."
Mayor Anthony Williams has sent H2O a letter demanding that the company refund registration fees. If the company refuses, Williams said he would direct the city attorney to take legal action.
In an interview last week, Stanley pledged to allow District officials to review the marathon's accounting.
A spokesman for Williams has said that there is no guarantee that the city will allow H2O to organize another race within city limits.