EL RENO, Okla. – A daughter’s wedding can be one of the happiest moments in a mother’s life. But an Oklahoma mom still reeling from her daughter’s untimely death is now embroiled in a dispute with the operators of the venue where her daughter was to be married.
Michaela Grundy’s wedding plans were well underway, and the bride-to-be was bursting with joy.
“She wanted it to be comfortable,” her mother, Lisa Busch, told KFOR. “She wanted it to be everybody that was celebrating them.”
She and her husband-to-be, Josh Smith, were to be wed in El Reno, Oklahoma, at the Palace Event Center in October.
But in May, Grundy started feeling ill.
“She said, ‘Mom, I’m not feeling so good.’ And then Tuesday they went to urgent care,'” Busch said.
Grundy’s condition changed throughout the week.
Early Monday morning, Busch received a phone call she won’t forget.
“Josh called us at 4 a.m. Monday morning,” she said. “I heard my husband say, ‘What do you mean she hasn’t breathed in 10 minutes?’ And so as soon as I heard that, we started getting ready and drove to the hospital. By the time I got there, they couldn’t revive her and she was gone.”
Grundy was 28, and it’s still unclear exactly what happened. The family says she tested positive for COVID-19 after passing.
Her family was left to grieve and cancel the wedding. They called vendors one by one, and they say they received immediate refunds from all, except one – The Palace, which was to be the main venue.
Grundy had paid The Palace around $4,000 before her death. Busch said, after losing her daughter, she called The Palace, but the venue only offered to reimburse half the amount.
“All that’s been done was her name’s been put on the date. So, I didn’t think half was really fair,” said Lisa. “So, I said, ‘Can you have the owner call me so that I can talk to him?'”
Lisa says her conversations with the owner grew heated on both sides. Palace management claimed they were unable to just give the money back as Michaela was the only person who signed the contract.
But Grundy used a card, and Busch says the card is linked to a joint bank account with Smith.
That account is still active, and Busch says everyone agrees it should be Smith who receives the funds.
“[Josh is] having to pick up and start his life and relocate his home,” said Lisa. “You know, we haven’t shut anything down yet because that was per the bank’s recommendation. So, it could just go back to the original form payment.”
In the nearly three months that have passed, no resolution has been reached.
Before long, a slew of bad reviews were left against the venue online. The Palace responded to most of these with a uniform statement that reads:
“The management of The Palace Event Center would like to offer our sincere condolences to Michaela’s family during this difficult time. We can’t imagine the sadness they are experiencing from this loss. The request for a refund has not been denied: our attorney has advised us that the refund must be paid to her legal heir, so we have asked for information regarding Michaela’s estate. We look forward to working with the family to resolve this.”
But at 28, with no will, how does one find Grundy’s heir?
Nexstar’s KFOR met with Edmonds, Oklahoma-based estate attorney David McBride, of McBride & Associates, to learn more.
“Typically, [families] present their documents to the court,” he explained. “They initiate a court proceeding called a probate, stating that they have a right to step up and be the person to receive distribution from the estate.”
But without a will or trust, these proceedings can be costly. Keep in mind the refund would be for just under $4,000.
McBride says even the most straightforward, no-hassle probate proceedings can cost $2,500 to $5,000.
“[Sometimes] you’re going to spend more in attorney fees and court costs and all those other expenditures than they’re going to ultimately recover,” He said. “It sadly happens far too often.”
But there could be a resolution in sight. The Palace responded to KFOR’s request for comment, with a lengthy statement.
Management said they were “very sorry to hear of Michaela’s passing” and that their attorney had advised them to receive an “affidavit of heirship.”
But they later said their attorney was in the process of drawing up this document to help resolve the matter.
They also asked that the bad reviews be removed from Facebook, adding, “It pains us greatly to see the negative and libelous posts. We have been unfairly defamed and we are not able to defend ourselves.”
However, it’s been more than a week since KFOR received that statement, and Busch says she’s heard nothing from Palace management and hasn’t received the affidavit.
She’s now hoping others will heed her family’s advice when it comes to such contracts.
“Make sure they ask the question, ‘What happens if, under no circumstance or no fault of our own, this wedding can’t take place?'” she said. “‘What am I entitled to?’ I wish we’d have known.”