Shortly after the now-iconic collapse of Billy McFarland’s Fyre Festival, co-founder Ja Rule immediately denied responsibility.
Despite funding and heavily promoting the disastrous luxury music festival, the rapper – real name – filed a claim in court. Legally speaking, the event’s failure wasn’t his fault.
Representing hundreds of millennial concertgoers in a massive $100 million lawsuit, celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos claimed both Ja Rule and 25-year-old entrepreneur-turned-fraudster Billy McFarland knowing “lured” festivalgoers into “a complete disaster, mass chaos, and a post-apocalyptic nightmare.”
Not mincing words, Geragos wrote,
“The festival’s lack of adequate food, water, shelter, and medical care created a dangerous and panicked situation among attendees…that was closer to ‘The Hunger Games’ or ‘Lord of the Flies’ than Coachella. Festivalgoers survived on bare rations, little more than bread and a slice of cheese, and tried to escape…in the only shelter provided…small clusters of ‘FEMA tents’…that were soaked and battered by wind and rain.”
Atkins refused to accept any liability, clearly contracting a post he wrote on social media during the failed event.
The rapper wrote (emphasis mine),
“We are working right now on getting everyone off the island SAFE. That’s my immediate concert…I’m heartbroken at this moment. My partners and I wanted this to be an amazing event. It was NOT A SCAM as everyone is reporting…I truly apologize as this is NOT MY FAULT. But I’m taking responsibility. I’m deeply sorry to everyone who was inconvenienced by this.”
Now, a federal judge has let Atkins off the hook. For now, at least.
You can’t sue Ja Rule nor the Fyre Festival for the event’s disaster. But, hey. Feel free to try again.
Despite rampant posts on social media and verified reports of the failed event – including two Hulu and Netflix documentaries – U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel said concertgoers have failed to provide evidence to back up the class-action lawsuit against Atkins and Fyre Festival CMO, Grant Margolin.
The federal judge wrote,
“The complaint states that defendants were aware for ‘months’ that there were no showers, electricity, bathrooms, medical services, or activities on the island. This, without more, does not plausibly allege that defendants months before the event intended not to hire or contract for such services.”
Judge Castel promptly dismissed with prejudice all claims against Ja Rule and Margolin.
According to the federal judge, the lawsuit doesn’t allege when both Atkins and Margolin made the claim the Fyre Festival would be “the cultural experience of the decade, featuring A-list entertainers … first-class culinary experiences and a luxury atmosphere.”
“There is no assertion that the festival when first conceived or introduced to the public was intended not to go forward or that defendants intended not to perform by organizing the advertised amenities and accommodation.”
Yet, the federal judge didn’t dismiss one claim with prejudice.
The day before the event started, Ja Rule posted the following message on Twitter,
“The stage is set!!! In less than 24 hours, the first annual Fyre Festival begins. #festivallife.”
Judge Castel said concertgoers could’ve sued the rapper over the tweet, which counts as a statement. Atkins made a legitimate – and thus, liable – promise attendees “could rely in making final preparations to arrive at the festival.”
Yet, possibly closing the doors to any future cases over Ja Rule’s tweet, the judge said the class-action lawsuit failed to show attendees actually believed the rapper’s proud declaration.
In a statement, the rapper’s attorney, Ryan Smith, praised the lawsuit’s dismissal.
“Mr. Atkins is thankful for today’s ruling and for the court’s time and attention. Justice was done today.”
However, Judge Castel left a small door for a new lawsuit against Ja Rule. He said concertgoers could file a new claim against the tweet – granted they have proof.
“Plaintiffs may move to amend to set forth in a proposed pleading allegations of reasonable reliance and causation as to each plaintiff.”
You can view the dismissal order below.
Featured image by WebSummit (CC by 2.0).