A Boca Raton attorney is trying a new tactic to induce the promoters behind Ultra Music Festival to refund fans now that the South Florida festival has been postponed twice due to COVID-19.
Attorney Marcus Wolf Corwin is a former litigator-turned-consumer rights lawyer who filed a 2020 class action lawsuit against Event Entertainment Group, the promotion company behind the long-running dance festival that was scheduled to take place in Bayfront Park in Miami in 2020.
When the case was sent to arbitration — and then postponed a second time without refunds — Corwin decided to try a new tactic, filing arbitration claims against Event Entertainment Group for every fan wanting a refund as well as a small claims case in Miami-Dade County Court. Corwin has filed on behalf of three clients already and has a dozen more in the pipeline for next week.
“We are seeking a global settlement with [Event Entertainment Group] that will address our clients’ request for refunds” plus attorneys fees, Corwin tells Billboard. “Settlement is a better path than continued litigation for both the consumer and the defendant and I am hopeful that by filing these actions we can come to a mutually agreeable resolution.
While Corwin insists his strategy isn’t to inundate Ultra with dozens of small claims, the tactic has definitely gotten their attention.
“I’m trying to stop the flow of people being screwed,” says Corwin, who previously worked as a concert promoter before becoming an attorney in the 1980s.
“Many consumers don’t read all the terms and conditions before filing a claim” and don’t realize they’ll get a VIP ticket for next year’s festival instead of a refund, he says. “When you’ve got 25,000 people receiving a VIP ticket, you have to wonder how VIP the pass actually is.”
There’s also no guarantee that Ultra will have enough capital to return in 2022 and owners Russell Faibisch and Adam Russakoff have said little about Ultra’s solvency or ability to return to form. (Billboard reached to a rep at Ultra for comment but did not receive a response).
Ultra became the first major U.S. festival to be postponed by the spread of the coronavirus when Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced on March 5, 2020 that the event was being pushed to 2021 in advance of a national lockdown order.
Cancellation and postponements soon followed for Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival, Lollapalooza and many others. But, unlike Ultra, fans for festivals promoted by Live Nation and AEG offered fans the choice between a full refund or the option to roll tickets over to the next year.
Ultra organizers did not offer fans a refund, essentially forcing them to accept postponement tickets for Ultra 2021 or 2022, “affording [fans] one month to affirmatively agree to defer their tickets before the value of their tickets would be forfeited,” Robert Scola, district judge for the Southern District of Florida, wrote in his ruling on the federal class action case. Noting that ticket buyers had agreed to settle all disputes with Ultra organizers through third-party arbitration, Scola paused the case and sent the dispute to arbitration on Nov. 23, 2020.
In January, Ultra organizers again postponed the festival with Ultra attorney Sandy York writing to Miami city manager Arthur Noriega requesting the event be rescheduled for March 25, 26 and 27, 2022. For a second year, fans were not offered refunds.
Corwin has also sued popstar Madonna and concert promotion giant Live Nation over the singer’s doomed 2019 Madame X tour. Representing ticket holders who paid thousands of dollars to see the intimate venue tour, Corwin argued that decisions to move the start of the show from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., along with other last minute changes, diminished the value of the tickets. The case was eventually settled out of court.
“My goal is to create a more level playing field for consumers,” Corwin says. “Many people love these brands and we want to encourage them to do the right thing by their fans.”