Ticket Buyers Ink $7.5M Deal In Vivid Seats Virus Refund Suit

By Lauren Berg
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Law360 (March 11, 2021, 10:10 PM EST) -- A group of Vivid Seats LLC ticket buyers asked an Illinois federal judge Thursday to greenlight a $7.5 million deal resolving claims that the ticket seller retroactively discontinued its refund policy after events were canceled in the wake of the pandemic.

Under the proposed settlement, Vivid Seats will pay $7.5 million to a common fund that will be used to pay back people who bought tickets to events that were canceled and will also extend credits to customers through Dec. 31, 2022, according to the motion filed by plaintiffs Timothy Nellis, Janel Dranes, Lucy Sousa, David Castillo and Edward Camarena.

"Absent this settlement, this litigation would be hotly litigated, extraordinarily costly, time-consuming and ultimately reduce the likelihood that a mutually beneficial resolution could be reached moving forward," the motion states.

The ticket buyers filed the proposed class action last April on behalf of Vivid Seats customers who bought tickets through the company's online ticket exchange but did not receive refunds after events across the country were canceled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The suit included claims of breach of contract, unjust enrichment, negligent misrepresentation and numerous state consumer statutes over Vivid Seats' failure to provide guaranteed refunds.

The plaintiffs seek to represent a settlement class of all people living in the U.S. or Canada who bought a ticket through Vivid Seats to an event that was subsequently canceled, postponed or rescheduled.

The parties reached the proposed settlement after multiple negotiation sessions and a thorough investigation of the facts, according to the order. Vivid Seats maintains that it is not liable for damages resulting from the alleged failures to pay out refunds, according to the motion, and reserves the right to file a motion to compel arbitration on an individual basis and to dismiss the suit.

In general, the amount that each member of the settlement class will receive will be equal to the price they paid for the ticket to the canceled event, according to the motion. But if the ensuing claims exceed those available in the fund, the claims will be reduced by an equal percentage until the fund is no longer overstretched, the motion states.

Vivid Seats also agreed to extend the expiration date on credits that were given to ticket buyers whose events were canceled or postponed to the end of 2022.

The plaintiffs are also seeking service awards of no more than $2,500 for each class representative and no more than $2.5 million in attorney fees and costs for class counsel.

Representatives for the parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Vivid Seats isn't the only company to face a lawsuit over its refund policy since the mass cancellation of concerts and events following the eruption of the pandemic.

Ticket resale giant StubHub sought to exit claims that it refused to refund customers, while a Walt Disney Company subsidiary got its wish to be released from a similar suit, according to court records.

Ticketmaster and its parent Live Nation Entertainment Co. successfully argued that a California ticket buyer must arbitrate his refund claims, while Ticketmaster, Live Nation and StubHub have also escaped some claims brought by Major League Baseball fans.

The ticket buyers in the instant suit are represented by Steven D. Liddle and Nicholas A. Coulson of Liddle & Dubin PC.

Vivid Seats is represented by Robert C. Collins III, Mark S. Mester and Dylan P. Glenn of Latham & Watkins LLP.

The case is Timothy Nellis et al. v. Vivid Seats LLC, case number 1:20-cv-02486, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

--Additional reporting by Nathan Hale, Matt Perez, Hannah Albarazi and Hailey Konnath. Editing by Ellen Johnson.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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