State AG files suit against closed Valpo bridal store
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent October 23, 2012 4:02PM
Updated: November 25, 2012 11:40AM
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s Office has filed a civil lawsuit against Sisters Bridal Inc., a Valparaiso bridal salon that abruptly closed its doors in August, leaving several brides and bridal parties without much-needed formal wear.
The lawsuit, filed by mail Friday in the Porter County court system, is against Terry Berntsen and her sister Madeline Reynolds, individually and doing business as Sisters Bridal Inc.
Eight consumers filed complaints with the Attorney General’s Office after they paid $6,647 upfront for wedding gowns and tuxedos, but never received the promised merchandise or any refunds before learning the business had closed.
“Our office is committed to holding businesses accountable when contracts with customers are not honored, because it is typically the consumers who lose out,” Zoeller said. “This lawsuit is an example of that commitment. While restitution will not likely make up for these wedding parties’ inconveniences of lost time and money, our office will work hard to make sure they receive some relief.”
How much relief those consumers will receive remains to be seen; Berntsen has filed for bankruptcy, according to documents on file in Porter Superior Court.
At the time the shop closed, several brides told the Post-Tribune they had been asked to pay upfront by cash or check for their dresses, and then were unable to reach Berntsen to retrieve their dresses. Some learned their gowns had never been ordered.
Berntsen’s landlord for the shop, at 902 Calumet Ave., said then that she had stopped paying rent and he had been unable to locate her.
According to the lawsuit, Berntsen “has used the defendant corporation for the purpose of misleading and deceiving Indiana consumers” and is in violation of the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. The store collected money from customers from January to July of this year and promised the wedding gowns or tuxedos would be finished in a reasonable period of time.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction, cancellation of contracts with consumers, consumer restitution, civil penalties and attorney fees.