wedding dress ruined by dry cleaner/storage - what to claim for?

My silk wedding dress has been discolored by either the dry cleaning process or where it was stored in the shop afterwards (moist atmosphere, sunlight & heat!)
I am at the stage of making a claim online through the small claims court but am unsure of what to claim for.
Obviously the main thing is to claim for the cost of my wedding dress, but I have heard that if I do this successfully, the dry cleaner will have the right to keep it.  Although it is unwearable, it still has a significant sentimental value to me and I wanted to keep it and also to wear it to our 'late' wedding reception since we can now invite more guests (our wedding happened during Covid with 8 guests) but we have now cancelled that because due to the dry cleaner not responding to emails or letters to resolve the matter, we now feel it is too late after the wedding and I only wanted to wear the dress I got married in.
I will be claiming a refund on the cost of dry cleaning and be requesting my dress be returned in the appropriate storage box instead of a clear plastic bag like it was!
There is also a loss of enjoyment, stress and inconvenience to claim for and deposits we have lost from the DJ, venue dresser and room.
I would really appreciate help on this matter of what is viable and if I can keep my dress.
Many thanks
in advance.
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  • Sandtree
    Sandtree Posts: 10,628
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    edited 8 February 2022 at 6:57PM
    To make a claim there must be a direct link between the event and the loss (the causal chain) and a test of remoteness. For example someone runs me over, I get 3 weeks sickpay and then SSP then benefits whilst I recover from my injuries. I can claim for my injury and my loss of earnings from the driver/their insurer however my employer cannot claim for the sick pay they gave me from the other party as it is too remote. If I have a non-fault crash, drive off and then the brakes fail 2 miles up the road and I go into the back of someone I cannot say its the driver in the first accidents fault as the causal chain is broken - no one made me drive the car again)

    Ultimately you can claim for whatever you want and the judge will decide however I would strongly suggest that your cancelling the reception was not a necessary and automatic response to the event and so is unclaimable. Many brides change their dress for the reception... some more than once. 

    Stress, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment, unless you're in therapy for it or being prescribed medication because of the incident then thats a none starter. Courts accept life happens and you need extreme issues to occur for anything to be directly awarded (ignoring global offers which is always debatable how that should be apportioned).

    Your only real head of claim is the cost of drying cleaning and the damage to the dress. You say you want to retain the dress and so it cannot be the secondhand value of the dress as that enables them to retain salvage (it wasnt a new dress before the cleaning so you'd never get the purchase price even if you gave up the dress).

    Have you taken it to another specialist company for their opinion on if its repairable? Wife's dress got red wine on it and the first company made little difference to it but the second got it all out so quality does vary.

    Your claim needs to the difference in value between a secondhand dress and a discoloured secondhand dress... it will be subjective depending on brand, style, quality, size, amount of alterations done etc. It will be a lot less than you are hoping for.

    Its also worrying that you are mentioning court and yet dont know what you are claiming for... you must have made your claim to the counterparty before going to court, normally in a letter before action, else you risk it being an abuse of process and win or lose you end up having to foot the bill of going to court (inc their expenses)
  • Aylesbury_Duck
    Aylesbury_Duck Posts: 13,797
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    SGH33 said:
    My silk wedding dress has been discolored by either the dry cleaning process or where it was stored in the shop afterwards (moist atmosphere, sunlight & heat!)
    I am at the stage of making a claim online through the small claims court but am unsure of what to claim for.
    Obviously the main thing is to claim for the cost of my wedding dress, but I have heard that if I do this successfully, the dry cleaner will have the right to keep it.  Although it is unwearable, it still has a significant sentimental value to me and I wanted to keep it and also to wear it to our 'late' wedding reception since we can now invite more guests (our wedding happened during Covid with 8 guests) but we have now cancelled that because due to the dry cleaner not responding to emails or letters to resolve the matter, we now feel it is too late after the wedding and I only wanted to wear the dress I got married in.
    I will be claiming a refund on the cost of dry cleaning and be requesting my dress be returned in the appropriate storage box instead of a clear plastic bag like it was!
    There is also a loss of enjoyment, stress and inconvenience to claim for and deposits we have lost from the DJ, venue dresser and room.
    I would really appreciate help on this matter of what is viable and if I can keep my dress.
    Many thanks
    in advance.
    You can only claim for your genuine losses, so loss of enjoyment, stress, inconvenience, etc. is going to be difficult to attach a figure to.  I think you'll struggle to justify claiming lost deposits for venue, DJ, etc. because the reception can clearly go ahead - it's one of the reasons you want the dress back!  You say it's unwearable but then say you want to keep it in order that you can wear it.  It can't be both.

    What has discoloration of the dress actually cost you?  What stages have you been through with the cleaner to try and get this resolved, and what has been their response?  Have they not responded to any emails or letters at all, or did their responses dry up when you reached an impasse?

    I suppose the obvious question is:  How much are you after, and for what?  Then people can advise if it's a. a viable claim,  b. a realistic amount and what you might need to strengthen your case.
  • SGH33
    SGH33 Posts: 21
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    To make a claim there must be a direct link between the event and the loss (the causal chain) and a test of remoteness. For example someone runs me over, I get 3 weeks sickpay and then SSP then benefits whilst I recover from my injuries. I can claim for my injury and my loss of earnings from the driver/their insurer however my employer cannot claim for the sick pay they gave me from the other party as it is too remote.

    Ultimately you can claim for whatever you want and the judge will decide however I would strongly suggest that your cancelling the reception was not a necessary and automatic response to the event and so is unclaimable. Many brides change their dress for the reception... some more than once. 

    Stress, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment, unless you're in therapy for it or being prescribed medication because of the incident then thats a none starter. Courts accept life happens and you need extreme issues to occur for anything to be directly awarded (ignoring global offers which is always debatable how that should be apportioned).

    Your only real head of claim is the cost of drying cleaning and the damage to the dress. You say you want to retain the dress and so it cannot be the secondhand value of the dress as that enables them to retain salvage (it wasnt a new dress before the cleaning so you'd never get the purchase price even if you gave up the dress).

    Have you taken it to another specialist company for their opinion on if its repairable? Wife's dress got red wine on it and the first company made little difference to it but the second got it all out so quality does vary.

    Your claim needs to the difference in value between a secondhand dress and a discoloured secondhand dress... it will be subjective depending on brand, style, quality, size, amount of alterations done etc. It will be a lot less than you are hoping for.

    Its also worrying that you are mentioning court and yet dont know what you are claiming for... you must have made your claim to the counterparty before going to court, normally in a letter before action, else you risk it being an abuse of process and win or lose you end up having to foot the bill of going to court (inc their expenses)




    Thankyou for your reply.
    The dry cleaner actually did around £300 of alterations to my dress before the wedding, so would I add this to the cost also? 
    Do I use the current cost of the dress from the manufacturer or the cheaper off the peg price I paid in my calculations?
    I did ask the dry cleaners who the manufacturers of the dress use about this and they said they would charge £95 to attempt to rectify it, but my dress is still at the shop as I was told by the manufacturer that if I bring it home I am accepting it in its state so I haven't actually taken it elsewhere yet.
    I have been supported by the citizens advice in what I have done so far and have sent 2 recorded delivery letters. In these my requests were that he either make a new top layer of the skirt of my dress (which would have made it passable to wear) or for money for a new outfit to wear for the reception.  But since we have now cancelled this, there is no need for either so my requests have changed. I did ask the citizens advice if I now needed to send 2 more recorded delivery letters stating the new claims but they said I didn't, but now after what you have said I am thinking this would be the sensible thing to do?
  • SGH33
    SGH33 Posts: 21
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    You can only claim for your genuine losses, so loss of enjoyment, stress, inconvenience, etc. is going to be difficult to attach a figure to.  I think you'll struggle to justify claiming lost deposits for venue, DJ, etc. because the reception can clearly go ahead - it's one of the reasons you want the dress back!  You say it's unwearable but then say you want to keep it in order that you can wear it.  It can't be both.

    What has discoloration of the dress actually cost you?  What stages have you been through with the cleaner to try and get this resolved, and what has been their response?  Have they not responded to any emails or letters at all, or did their responses dry up when you reached an impasse?

    I suppose the obvious question is:  How much are you after, and for what?  Then people can advise if it's a. a viable claim,  b. a realistic amount and what you might need to strengthen your case.
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    Thankyou for your reply.
    I wanted to wear the dress when the reception was going ahead as no one had seen it because of our Covid wedding, so we wanted to recreate the day, but it is now unwearable due to the damage.
    The cost to me would be to but a brand new dress plus alterations that the dry cleaner actually did before the wedding (he is also a tailor)
    When I first emailed about the discolouration, he told me to bring it back and send photos, he dry cleaned it a further 4 times (I have this in an email) but it made the whole dress a different colour instead of just in patches prior to this. I refused to take it, then after seeking help from the citizens advice, I emailed him to ask how he could help and from then on I had no response I have sent further emails and 2 recorded delivery letters which have not been responded to, so my next step is court action.
    I would like the cost of dry cleaning refunded.  As I had had a lot of alterations done he said he gave me a discount on this, but the dress was not returned in a box as it should be, so I feel the service was incomplete rather than a true discount.
    Also for him to pay to have another dry cleaners attempt to rectify it, and for some compensation towards the cost of the dress but I was reluctant to ask for this as I want to keep the dress for sentimental reasons.
  • bris
    bris Posts: 10,548
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    edited 8 February 2022 at 7:43PM
    Throwing everything at it like you are is only going to wind up the judge.

    The small claims court is for losses, not all that other nonsense where they simply wont entertain it.

    You need to get legal help and go to the county court for the other stuff, that costs a lot of money which personally I believe you are throwing away.

    In the small claims court you can have the second hand value of the dress plus cleaning costs and expences. They would expect you to attend mediation beforehand where an offer would probably be made by the cleaners,.Failing to do that or if the judge decides the offer is fair could see you lose expenses. 

    Canceling everything is a bit over the top so don't think its easy to pull the wool over the judges eyes.
  • Sandtree
    Sandtree Posts: 10,628
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    SGH33 said:
    Thankyou for your reply.
    The dry cleaner actually did around £300 of alterations to my dress before the wedding, so would I add this to the cost also? 
    Do I use the current cost of the dress from the manufacturer or the cheaper off the peg price I paid in my calculations?
    I did ask the dry cleaners who the manufacturers of the dress use about this and they said they would charge £95 to attempt to rectify it, but my dress is still at the shop as I was told by the manufacturer that if I bring it home I am accepting it in its state so I haven't actually taken it elsewhere yet.
    I have been supported by the citizens advice in what I have done so far and have sent 2 recorded delivery letters. In these my requests were that he either make a new top layer of the skirt of my dress (which would have made it passable to wear) or for money for a new outfit to wear for the reception.  But since we have now cancelled this, there is no need for either so my requests have changed. I did ask the citizens advice if I now needed to send 2 more recorded delivery letters stating the new claims but they said I didn't, but now after what you have said I am thinking this would be the sensible thing to do?
    On the dress you have two options for  claiming:

    1) The secondhand value of the dress in normal condition minus the secondhand value of the dress in its current condition 
    2) The cost of someone else to repair it, in this case that'd be dry cleaning it again 

    Both of these measure what your actual financial loss has been. What you should claim will depend either if repairing it is even possible or, if both are possible, then the lower of the two prices should be claimed. Unfortunately sentimental value doesnt attract a cash figure

    The comment on alterations was about the fact it could have reduced the value of the dress not that you can claim for the costs of the alterations... a wedding dress for a size 14 woman of slightly above average height will be much more valuable for the identical dress made for a woman who is size 28 and only 4'11... its not sizist/heightist etc its just the reality there is much more demand for something that will fit more people. Once things are made smaller they can rarely be notably enlarged again.

    You dont use either the RRP or the price you paid... you bought a brand new dress, you didnt give the cleaners a brand new dress you gave them a secondhand dress. The value, as above needs to be based on secondhand values.

    If you feel you've given them sufficient time and notice to resolve it then you do not necessarily need to send any other letters. Ultimately its for the court to decide what is reasonable. 


  • Sandtree
    Sandtree Posts: 10,628
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    PS. just to add... silk can be difficult to clean and you need to read the disclaimers that you inevitably agreed to before handing the dress over.

    We obviously are only touching on quantum here and not the other issue of if there is any liability in the first place based on how the staining happened and what the T&C of the service was.
  • SGH33
    SGH33 Posts: 21
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    Yes, I agree with what you are saying now after yours and previous advice.  I think I am just wound up at his lack of ownership to his error and him not responding.
    I have written to him in both emails and letters requesting mediation and asking if he is part of any organisation as there is nothing on his website, but he has not responded.
    If I was successful in court in claiming the cost of the dress plus cleaning costs and expenses, would I still be able to keep my dress?
    Would I be making a mistake if I took it from the shop now?
  • Sandtree
    Sandtree Posts: 10,628
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    SGH33 said:
    Yes, I agree with what you are saying now after yours and previous advice.  I think I am just wound up at his lack of ownership to his error and him not responding.
    I have written to him in both emails and letters requesting mediation and asking if he is part of any organisation as there is nothing on his website, but he has not responded.
    If I was successful in court in claiming the cost of the dress plus cleaning costs and expenses, would I still be able to keep my dress?
    Would I be making a mistake if I took it from the shop now?
    Its the same as if you wreck your car either:

    1) You get the value of the item the second before the accident happened (ie the secondhand value of your dress) and they keep it or...

    2) You get the value of the item the second before the accident minus the value of the item now after the accident and you keep it

    Ultimately claims are a negotiation, car insurers want to keep the salvage because they can sell it to a scrap merchant for 20-30% of what they've paid out but many home insurers arent interested in broken TVs so dont deduct or claim salvage even though legally they could. A dry cleaners may not want the salvage and so may be happy for you to keep it anyway but strictly speaking if you keep it they'd be entitled to deduct its value in its damage state.

    There is little issue with taking the dress, and indeed it can help you mitigate your losses by getting a second opinion on if it can be saved. They may ask you to sign something and this sort of thing tends to have little weight but if you are really concerned you can always add "signed under duress" or equiv to indicate it wasnt an acceptance of the condition the dress is in
  • SGH33
    SGH33 Posts: 21
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    Sandtree said:
    SGH33 said:
    Yes, I agree with what you are saying now after yours and previous advice.  I think I am just wound up at his lack of ownership to his error and him not responding.
    I have written to him in both emails and letters requesting mediation and asking if he is part of any organisation as there is nothing on his website, but he has not responded.
    If I was successful in court in claiming the cost of the dress plus cleaning costs and expenses, would I still be able to keep my dress?
    Would I be making a mistake if I took it from the shop now?
    Its the same as if you wreck your car either:

    1) You get the value of the item the second before the accident happened (ie the secondhand value of your dress) and they keep it or...

    2) You get the value of the item the second before the accident minus the value of the item now after the accident and you keep it

    Ultimately claims are a negotiation, car insurers want to keep the salvage because they can sell it to a scrap merchant for 20-30% of what they've paid out but many home insurers arent interested in broken TVs so dont deduct or claim salvage even though legally they could. A dry cleaners may not want the salvage and so may be happy for you to keep it anyway but strictly speaking if you keep it they'd be entitled to deduct its value in its damage state.

    There is little issue with taking the dress, and indeed it can help you mitigate your losses by getting a second opinion on if it can be saved. They may ask you to sign something and this sort of thing tends to have little weight but if you are really concerned you can always add "signed under duress" or equiv to indicate it wasnt an acceptance of the condition the dress is in
    Thankyou.  I should imagine the value of it at the moment is very low because it is not fit for purpose!
    Regards taking the dress, I just didn't want him saying that anything happened to it 
    once it left the shop.
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