A so-called “chickenpox party” was at the centre of a recent dispute between a B.C. family and their daycare provider, according to a decision from the Civil Resolution Tribunal.

The parents, whose names are anonymized in the ruling, were seeking a refund of their $1,200 deposit as well as $1,050 in reimbursement of fees for unused days from Cindy Northey, doing business as Learn, Grow, Play Daycare.

The dispute dates back to February of 2023, according to the decision., which was posted online this week. 

“Mrs. Northey said she was considering exposing her own children, who attended the daycare, to a child who had chickenpox at a party. Mrs. Northey sent the applicants an email that evening referring to a ‘chicken pox opportunity’ and noting that some parents may choose not to send their children to the daycare over a period of time,” tribunal member Christopher C. Rivers wrote.

The parents decided to pull their child out of daycare for 13 days and sought a refund for those days while also telling Northey they intended to send their child back to the daycare and resume payment afterward.

However, the tribunal said Northey responded by ending their contract via email.

“Mrs. Northey concluded by saying she was terminating the child-care contract as the relationship between the parents and the daycare was ‘not the best fit.’ She did not provide any explanation at the time why she believed that to be the case,” the decision says.

Northey told the tribunal that the terms of the childcare contract entitled her to end it “immediately” and without a refund. She also told the tribunal she never took her children to the party and had only brought it up as a “potential event.”

Rivers said that the emails in evidence showed that Northey told the parents her sons had been exposed to chickenpox and were asymptomatic. This, he found, was inconsistent with her claim that she never took her children to the party. Further, he said there were no emails in evidence in which Northey said she did not proceed with her plan.

“She does not address that the applicants only asked for a refund if she chose to proceed with exposing her own children,” Rivers said.

Ultimately, Rivers ruled in the family’s favour because he found the terms of the contract did not allow Northey to stop providing daycare services for the reason she did and in the manner that she did.

The contract allowed Northey to terminate daycare if it was in the best interest of the child and the daycare, the decision says.

“Mrs. Northey said the parent-provider relationship was not the best for the daycare, but provided no explanation as to how terminating services was in (the child’s) best interest … I find Mrs. Northey must prove both to be entitled to terminate the contract. Since she did not do so, I find she has breached the parties’ contract by unilaterally terminating (the child’s) care,” it continues.

Further, the tribunal found that the contract required notice to be given for services to be terminated and that halting daycare “immediately” was a breach of the contract.

The tribunal awarded the parents $2,250 for breach of contract, as well as $122.71 in pre-judgment interest and $140.62 in fees.

Chickenpox parties involve parents deliberately exposing their unvaccinated children to the disease. The BC Centre for Disease Control warns against this, urging vaccination instead.

“Do not expose your child to chickenpox on purpose. Some parents expose their children to chickenpox because they think it is safer for children to have the illness when they are young. This isn’t a good idea, because even young children can have serious problems from chickenpox,” the agency says.

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