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Mark Geragos Files $100 Million Suit Against Fyre Festival

Variety logo Variety 5/1/2017 Paula Parisi
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A major lawsuit has been filed in California against Ja Rule and Billy McFarland, organizers of the Fyre Festival, the two-weekend concert in the Bahamas that was scheduled for last weekend but collapsed in disorganization before it started. The suit was filed on Sunday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by celebrity trial lawyer Mark Geragos, who is seeking class action status. Geragos filed suit electronically on Sunday on behalf of plaintiff Daniel Jung, who is seeking $5 million in damages for alleged fraud, breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and negligent misrepresentation.

The suit anticipates a class of “more than 150 “plaintiffs for whom it seeks a minimum of $100 million. Geragos will be busy over the upcoming week seeking out other litigants to join the suit, which alleges  that the “festival’s lack of adequate food, water, shelter, and medical care created a dangerous and panicked situation among attendees — suddenly finding themselves stranded on a remote island without basic provisions — that was closer to ‘The Hunger Games’ or ‘Lord of the Flies’ than Coachella.”

The suit claims as its causes of action: fraud, breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and negligent misrepresentation and seeks a minimum of $100 million in damages. It is believed a crowd of approximately 6,000 attendees was expected to attend the festival, though it is unclear how many tickets were actually sold.

Tickets to Fyre Fest cost anywhere from $1,000 to $125,000 for luxury group packages to the event, which was to have run in two parts: April 28-30 and May 5-7 on the private Fyre Cay in the Grand Bahamas Exuma Island chain. Performers were to include Blink-182, Migos, Major Lazer and Disclosure. By April 27 social media began lighting up with reports of distressed guests, arriving to find not the luxury accommodations they’d signed up for, but a dirt field with flimsy tents.

In the past, Geragos has represented Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, singer Kesha and politician Gary Condit in high-profile cases.

Jung claims to have spent $2,000 on his Fyre Festival ticket and airfare. For that, he and fellow “festival-goers survived on bare rations, little more than bread and a slice of cheese, and tried to escape the elements in the only shelter provided by Defendants: small clusters of ‘FEMA tents,’ exposed on a sand bar, that were soaked and battered by wind and rain.”

The commonwealth of Bahamas may well file a suit of its own. TMZ reported the Bahamas “stands to lose out on millions with the festival being called off … and tourism officials are devastated.” The Ministry of Tourism released a statement saying it is “extremely disappointed.”

ABC News reports that the festival site is now in “lockdown” by the island’s government. “Private security guards were seen Saturday protecting the main site where people had been slated to sleep in luxury tents,” ABC reported, alleging McFarland failed to pay customs duty taxes “on items that he imported for the event,” and that “he and his staff have left the items with a security company guarding it.”

Having removed promotional materials for the festival, the Fyre Fest official website now offers its explanation for the disastrous turn of events, claiming the organizers were overwhelmed by the response after news of the fest went viral. Finding the island couldn’t support the swelling crowd, it was decided “infrastructure for a festival of this magnitude needed to be built from the ground up. So, we decided to literally attempt to build a city. We set up water and waste management, brought an ambulance from New York, and chartered 737 planes to shuttle our guests via 12 flights a day from Miami.” McFarland made similar comments to Rolling Stone and in a video posted on TMZ.

To say the efforts fell short is an understatement. The suit alleges that festival attendees became virtual prisoners:  “Faced with the complete lack of even the most basic amenities, as well as no assistance from Defendants, festival attendees began to panic. Predictably, Attendees began attempting to leave the island en masse, but found themselves trapped—even locked inside an airport awaiting delayed flights.”

Efforts to “escape,” the suit claims, “were hamstrung by their reliance upon Defendants for transportation, as well as by the fact that Defendants promoted the festival as a ‘cashless’ event—Defendants instructed attendees to upload funds to a wristband for use at the festival rather than bringing any cash. As such, Attendees were unable to purchase basic transportation on local taxis or busses, which accept only cash. As a result … at least one attendee suffered a medical emergency and lost consciousness after being locked inside a nearby building with other concert-goers waiting to be airlifted from the island.”

Given that the festivals organizers did not have the funds to compensate the entertainers booked to perform — and it is unclear as to whether they had insurance — speculation has begun that Geragos may go after some of the bigger name models who took part in promoting the ill-fated event. Celebrities “including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski” were cited by name in the complaint, which says they used their social media accounts “to generate ticket sales.” The website FashionLaw.com speculates the models’ participation in promoting the site may trigger a Federal Trade Commission proceeding for false advertising.

Although the Fyre Fest organizers have offered to give all disappointed 2017 festival-goers free tickets to the 2018 iteration, which they said they intend to hold in the United States, it’s clear that this isn’t going to make the problem go away and that all involved have a long legal slog ahead.

Neither Geragos, McFarland nor a representative for Ja Rule replied for requests for comment at the time this report was filed.

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