Rumors are swirling that fans who accept a refund from Astroworld could be forfeiting their right to sue Travis Scott and other organizers over the deadly event, but experts say you can probably take your refund and still head to court, especially if you don’t sign or agree to anything new.
In the immediate wake of the deadly Nov. 5 crowd surge – which left 10 dead and hundreds injured – Scott and Astroworld promotors Live Nation and ScoreMore issued a statement that “full refunds are being offered for all those who purchased tickets.” But as lawsuits began to mount in the days after, rumors started to circulate on social media that such refunds were legally perilous.
One tweet read: “DO NOT ACCEPT THE REFUND FOR YOUR TICKET – YOU LIKELY WONT BE ABLE TO SUE. PLEASE REPOST.” Similar warnings were shared on TikTok, Reddit and Instagram. By last week, the story had made it to some online news outlets, with headlines like “Astroworld Attendees Accepting Refunds Could Be Waiving Right to Sue.”
But experts tell Billboard that victims who accept a refund are unlikely to be seriously limiting their ability to successfully sue over the disaster. And that’s certainly the case if users simply receive their money back and do not agree to any additional terms of service.
“A concertgoer accepting a refund, by itself, would not count as a waiver of the right to sue for injuries,” said John Goldberg, a deputy dean at Harvard Law School who focuses on tort lawsuits like those filed over Astroworld.
Close to 200 negligence lawsuits have been filed in the two weeks since Astroworld, representing hundreds of people who were either injured or lost family members. The cases will likely take years to resolve, and could eventually see hundreds of millions in damages or settlements.
To be clear, the terms of service imposed on buyers when they initially purchased their Astroworld tickets contain onerous provisions, like a liability waiver and a requirement that cases be heard via private arbitration. Both of those provisions will likely be cited by Live Nation to fight the lawsuits and figure to be potential roadblocks for victims. But the agreement doesn’t include terms about users forfeiting their right to sue in the event of a refund, and the organizers cannot change the terms later.
An entirely new agreement could be imposed on ticket holders as a condition of receiving a refund, and that kind of after-the-fact deal would be more enforceable in court. Attorneys filing Astroworld cases, like Tony Buzbee, have urged victims not to agree to anything “active” in the process of taking a refund.
But no evidence has yet emerged that Live Nation or other ticket sellers are imposing such conditions on refund recipients, and experts say even that kind of agreement would face serious scrutiny in court, particularly if users were encouraged to sign without first consulting a lawyer.
“The defendants will argue that any such signed writing is the equivalent of a settlement agreement, in which the concertgoer receives some money, the refund, in exchange for releasing them from liability,” Goldberg said.
“However, a court might well decline to enforce such an agreement, particularly if the concertgoer was seriously injured, in which case the refund will be tiny in comparison to the damages that the concertgoer might recover,” Goldberg said.