Fyre Festival Fallout: Breaking Down the Six Lawsuits (So Far)
The disastrous fallout from the canceled Fyre Festival continues, as a sixth lawsuit has been filed over the failed event co-promoted by rapper Ja Rule, this time over claims organizers tried to…
The disastrous fallout from the canceled Fyre Festival continues to spread two weeks after the luxury-promising event collapsed in a heap of broken promises. While organizers Ja Rule (born Jeffrey Atkins) and Billy McFarland have been relatively quiet in the aftermath, disgruntled parties have been very vocal in the courts, as a sixth lawsuit has just been filed in a Florida court over the fest that sold the fantasy of live music from Migos and Blink-182 and mingling models on an exclusive island in the Caribbean starting on Apr. 28.
The latest suit claims that organizers sent cease-and-desist letters to angry patrons who were criticizing Fyre on social media. Here’s a breakdown of all the legal action to date:
Lawsuit #1: Celebrity attorney Mark Geragos was first out of the gate on Sunday, April 30 — just days after the event’s collapse — with a proposed $100 million class action lawsuit filed on behalf of client Daniel Jung. The suit accused organizers of fraud, citing the fest’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.”
The suit filed on behalf of Jung and other festival attendees claimed conditions on the ground were more like “The Hunger Games or Lord of the Flies than Coachella.” After paying hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars for tickets, the suit claimed that “attendees’ efforts to escape the unfolding disaster 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 of Defendants’ roadblocks to escape, 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.”
Lawsuit #2: Personal injury attorney John Girardi got in line just a few days later, representing Chelsea Chinery, Shannon McAuliffe and Desiree Flores in a breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and fraud suit against Ja Rule, Billy McFarland and Fyre Media. Filed in L.A. Superior Court, the suit alleges that the defendants tricked people into attending the event by paying more than 400 social media influencers — including models Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski — and celebrities to promote it, making it appear as if the grounds would be populated by the social elite. It also alleges that the Fyre social media campaign flouted FTC regulations when “social media ‘influencers’ made no attempt to disclose to consumers that they were being compensated for promoting the Fyre Festival.”
Lawsuit #3: Another set of attendees, Matthew Herlihy and Anthony Lauriello — who each paid $1,027 for their tickets, and uploaded an additional $900-$1,000 to cashless wristbands — file a class-action suit alleging negligence, fraud and violation of consumer protection law. Both men said they were unable to access their cash on the island or since, with Lauriello adding that he was robbed of his clothes and headphones on Exumas because “Defendants failed to provide any security.”
They said that they arrived to find “total chaos” on the beach, with a site that was “lacking basic amenities, was covered in dirt, and guests had to sleep in tents with wet blankets… There were no communal bathrooms or showers, but instead only three showers and a porta potty every 200 yards, which was woefully insufficient for the large number of festival attendees. The food was unappetizing and there were no on-site medical services. Additionally, there were no other basic amenities like soap, sunscreen and shampoo, and no electricity.”
Lawsuit #4: Andrew Petrozziello filed his own suit in New Jersey federal court alleging breach of contract and that Fyre’s organizers violated the state consumer fraud act. Petrozziello, who paid $1,100 for his ticket, never made it to the island, instead getting stranded in Miami after learning his flight was canceled, requiring him to pay for his own ticket home. And though Ja Rule and McFarland said they would provide full refunds, Petrozziello’s suit claims “to date, no refunds have been issued.”
Lawsuit #5: Nation Event Services, a Pennsylvania event staffing company hired to provide emergency medical services for Fyre joined the legal fray on Thursday (May 4) with a suit filed in a Philadelphia court accusing Fyre of breach of contract and fraud, claiming that organizers didn’t buy cancelation insurance despite an understanding that they had not properly funded the event; they are seeking $250,000 in damages. NES claims that when they arrived on Grand Exumas Island a few days before the concert was scheduled to kick off the company said staff members “immediately discovered that the accommodations were uninhabitable, including bug infestation, blood-stained mattresses, and no air conditioning,” and that the defendants had failed to provide proper facilities for staff to provide medical services.
The suit claims that NES stayed on the island and set up a medical tent “in response to obvious safety and health concerns for the people trapped on the Island, which left NES exposed to serving distressed patrons for an unprepared festival site,” despite the fact that the defendants allegedly never booked a medical evacuation plane or helicopter, and that the health clinic on the island was closed, leaving NES with no ability to send potential patients requiring overnight care to a safe facility.
Lawsuit #6: Yet another class-action is filed, this one in Miami by North Carolina couple Kenneth and Emily Reel, who are seeking $5 million from Rule, McFarland and the fest’s public relations agency, 42West LLC and advertising company, Matte Projects, LLC. The PR and ad agency are the latest entities to be dragged into the fray, with attorneys for the couple arguing that the companies “did not take any steps, let alone reasonable steps, to ensure that their promotional materials and marketing campaigns were accurate” and that they “did nothing to ensure that what they were marketing, and in turn what people were relying upon in purchasing tickets, was or even could be true.” 42West represents such high-profile clients as Rihanna, Lady Gaga and The Weeknd, among many others.
The Reels, who had vacationed in the Bahamas’ Exumas for the past six years, said they signed up after an ad for the event popped up in their Facebook feed, booking a “two bed ‘duo’ with a VIP upgrade for $4,599.84.” The suit takes on the PR defendants, saying they “knew or should have known that their advertisements and promotions of Fyre Festival were false and likely to mislead consumers. The campaign described above that they set in motion was, at bottom, a reckless disregard for reality and at worse, a blatant falsity.”
It also noted that “within a few hours after the actual festival began, the PR Defendants and those same Fyre Starters who scammed their followers into buying tickets, quickly started deleting their promotional posts.”