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Fyre Festival Hit With Second, ‘Difficult’ Class-Action Suit, With More Likely to Come

Variety logo Variety 5/3/2017 Paula Parisi
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A second class-action lawsuit against the disastrous Fyre Festival was filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, apparently in an effort to take advantage of California’s consumer-friendly state law, which generally results in more favorable judgments for victimized plaintiffs. The Los Angeles-based firm Girardi-Keese requested class-action status but, as per state law, did not include a figure for damages, which are determined by the state.

In addition to concert promoters Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule – cited as Jeffrey Atkins – the new complaint names New York-based Matte Projects, the creative agency that handled advertising materials, as a defendant, with concert-goers Chelsea Chinery, Shannon McAuliffe, and Desiree Flores as first-mover plaintiffs alleging fraud, breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, and violation of the California Business and Profession Code.

The new suit says the defendants led people into purchasing tickets by paying more than 400 social media influencers “with at least 10,000 unique social media followers to promote the event across their respective social media accounts,” going on to list by name Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, Emily Ratajkowski, Anastasia Ashley, Mike Thomas, Corbin Kelly, and Julia Kelly.

The 12-page complaint goes on to describe luggage “thrown haphazardly from shipping crates on to the beach,” and accommodations described as “upscale” turning out to be “tents used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in times of disaster” devoid of furnishings. The suit goes on to describe “a complete lack of infrastructure” and detailed how “panic enveloped the crowd” as “plaintiffs were stuck on the island with no way off.”

Los Angeles-based attorney Mark Geragos filed the first federal class-action suit on Sunday.

Girardi-Keese partner John Girardi says that as word has spread about the first suit, his firm has been contacted by additional potential litigants. “We are in the early stages,” Girardi tells Variety. “This is a difficult situation in that there are different degrees of damage for different categories of people,” he adds, noting that while some traveled to the island and were then stuck there for days, other paying would-be attendees were stranded in Florida.

Giardi says he doesn’t believe promises by the festival promoters to refund monies and provide free future tickets will pass muster as just compensation by the courts. “What we are hoping to do is identify the obligation to the consumer and make it right by them,” he says.

All three of his firm’s initial plaintiffs are California residents, and the fact that his suit cites the California Business and Profession Code could mean that, if found guilty, the defendants would be prohibited from future concert promotion in the state or limited in how they could engage.

Meanwhile, there are reports of personal-injury claims taking shape for people who suffered harm on the island. One person who claims to have suffered a fractured ankle is seeking to join Girardi’s class-action suit.

Florida personal injury attorney Philip DeBerard has launched as website, complete with paid Google search advertising, encouraging concertgoers to join his planned class-action suit, which hasn’t been filed yet. DeBerard claims he’s “been slammed with inquiries” since launching his website on Friday, but declined to provide a number. “We’re still in the early stages of researching the claims,” DeBerard says.

One thing these lawyers will be researching is how to find and serve the defendants, for which they will have anywhere from several months to up to year, depending on whether they’ve filed in federal or state court.

It’s possible any state cases may, at the request of the parties, be remanded to federal court. The cases may eventually may be joined, since there are common interests and existing federal class action law could be determined to apply. These are details that will be sorted out over the next year, when more defendants and complainants will likely emerge.

Attempts to reach the defendants and a rep for Fyre Festival were not successful at press time.

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