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Fyre Festival ticket-holder lawsuit seeks default judgment and $7.5 million in damages

By | Published on Tuesday 23 June 2020

Fyre Festival

Fyre Festival ticket-holders still pursuing a class-action lawsuit against the founder of the failed 2017 music event have asked a New York judge to issue a default judgement in their favour and to order the incarcerated Billy McFarland to pay them $7.5 million.

The disastrous Fyre Festival is now legendary, of course. With Ja Rule presented as a co-founder and a flurry of Instagram stars hired to sell the show, it was meant to be a luxurious festival experience in the Bahamas. Except, as people arrived on the island that was set to host the festivities, it quickly became clear that McFarland and his team hadn’t put in place the infrastructure for even a bargain-basement event, let alone the luxurious experience that had been promised.

As the more eager ticket-buyers arrived on site, artists were already bailing having found out about the festival’s dire financial position. The whole thing was then called off just as it was starting, the only entertainment on offer being the subsequent documentaries that were made telling the behind-the-scenes story of the whole sorry shitstorm.

A stack of lawsuits filed by suppliers, investors and ticket-holders quickly followed, while a criminal investigation ultimately saw McFarland jailed for fraud. With the Fyre companies bankrupt, McFarland behind bars and his former celebrity pals doing everything they can to distance themselves from the whole debacle, one problem for those pursuing legal action is working out where any potential damages are going to come from.

That said, the trustee overseeing the Fyre company’s bankruptcy is still trying to get fees back from the artists who were due to play and the influencers who were paid to big up the festival. The trustee’s argument is that – even if those fees were in theory non-refundable – they were paid for out of fraudulently gained monies. Some artists and influencers have now agreed to pay back some of the monies they received, though that will most likely benefit McFarland’s defrauded investors.

Meanwhile, the first Fyre Festival lawsuit to be orchestrated – work on which began even as people were still travelling home from the non-event – continues to slowly go through the motions. Along the way that ticket-holder lawsuit has bounced from the courts in California to New York, and has been merged with some other similar actions. Attempts to also hold Ja Rule and Fyre marketing exec Grant Margolin equally liable for each ticket-holder’s losses mainly failed.

In the new legal filing, Daniel Jung – the ticket-holder linked from the start to the first class action against McFarland et al – argues that the jailed Fyre man has failed to respond to the most recent version of his lawsuit. Therefore a default judgement should be issued in his favour. The legal filing then argues again for class action status while setting out the case for McFarland to be ordered to pay $7.5 million in damages.

“Defendant McFarland perpetrated fraud and a number of other related wrongs by making false representations about Fyre Festival in online marketing for the event, and by otherwise concealing material facts about the festival from the consuming public”, the court papers say at one point.

And, “although defendant McFarland’s default does not constitute an admission of damages, plaintiff has submitted evidence supporting his request for damages”.

That request is basically based on the argument that “purchasers of Fyre Festival tickets suffered damages in that they expended money on Fyre Festival tickets, travel expenses, and other associated purchases for an event that did not deliver as advertised and was ultimately cancelled”.

The $7.5 million damages claim is based on the assumption that the average ticket-buyer spent about $1500 on travel and such like, and about 5000 people had bought tickets for the aborted event. It remains to be seen how the judge responds.