The organizers of the now-infamous Fyre Festival have been hit with a $100 million class-action lawsuit, alleging that the “luxury” music festival on a private island in the Bahamas was “nothing more than a get-rich-quick scam” and that its promoters defrauded ticket buyers.
The lawsuit claims entrepreneur Billy McFarland and the rapper Ja Rule, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, knew while organizing the event that it was “dangerously underequipped and posed a serious danger to anyone in the attendance.” Despite that, they continued to hype the Fyre Festival on social media and sell tickets, some for thousands of dollars, according to the lawsuit.
“Nevertheless, Defendants refused to warn attendees about the dangerous conditions awaiting them on the island,” the filing stated. “Defendants only ‘cancelled’ the event on the morning of the first day — after thousands of attendees had already arrived and were stranded, without food, water, or shelter.”
The lawsuit was filed Sunday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by Los Angeles-based lawyer Mark Geragos, whose past clients have included Michael Jackson, Nicole Ritchie and Chris Brown.
This time, however, the plaintiff was not a celebrity but a California resident named Daniel Jung, who said he paid about $2,000 for a Fyre Festival ticket package and airfare to the Bahamas. What Jung got was not the luxurious experience he said he was promised.
“The festival’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 — that was closer to ‘The Hunger Games’ or ‘Lord of the Flies’ than Coachella,” the filing stated.
More than 150 other plaintiffs are expected to join the lawsuit, according to the filing.
By now, the epic disaster that was supposed to be the Fyre Festival is legend.
Festivalgoers shelled out anywhere from $450 to $250,000 for the promise of two weekends of live music, luxurious accommodations, gourmet meals and mingling with celebrities on a private island in the Bahamas.
Online, the Fyre Festival — billed as an event with “first-class culinary experiences and a luxury atmosphere” — was hyped with the help of flashy promotional videos and celebrities.
“Defendants invested enormous amounts of time and money in promoting and advertising their festival domestically and internationally,” the filing stated. “They employed hundreds of online ‘influencers’ — including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski — to use social media to generate ticket sales, and created extravagant websites and mock-ups of the luxurious villas in which attendees would be staying.”
When attendees arrived last week in the Exumas, a group of islands belonging to the Bahamas, they discovered that the luxury accommodations were actually disaster-relief tents on the beach, some still not set up.
Cheese sandwiches made up the “gourmet meals,” and festival organizers seemed to be equally in the dark, sometimes literally, about what was supposed to happen.
Blink-182, one of the festival’s headliners, pulled out at the last minute.
— William N. Finley IV (@WNFIV) April 28, 2017
— William N. Finley IV (@WNFIV) April 28, 2017
Soon, many people were clamoring to get on a flight back home. There were inevitable comparisons to “The Hunger Games,” to the survivalist reality show “Naked and Afraid” and, more regrettably, to actual refugee camps.
On social media, people observed the collapse of the “elite” festival — unfurling live for all to see under #fyrefestival, #dumpsterfyre and other unprintable hashtags — with a mix of shade and schadenfreude.
The class-action lawsuit included many pictures from the Fyre Festival that had been posted to social media by those who said they were there.
At least one person whose Instagram photo was pasted into the filing said she had not authorized it to be used in the lawsuit. That photo, of a pig swimming in the clear Bahamian waters, was used to allege that “in addition to the substandard accommodations, wild animals were seen in and around the festival grounds.” In reality, the swimming pigs are a well-known attraction in the Bahamas.
Ashleigh Schap, the woman in the photo, told BuzzFeed News that the lawyers did not consult her before using her Instagram and that she was not a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Neither McFarland nor Ja Rule have publicly responded to the lawsuit. On Friday, when news about Fyre Festival exploded online, Ja Rule posted a long message on Twitter, apologizing but saying it was not his fault. He emphasized that the event “was NOT A SCAM as everyone is reporting.”
McFarland — whose business ventures have come under scrutiny in the past — has already vowed to forge ahead and try to hold another Fyre Festival next year.
“We were a little naive in thinking for the first time we could do this ourselves,” he told Rolling Stone reporter Steve Knopper. “Next year, we will definitely start earlier. The reality is, we weren’t experienced enough to keep up.”
A copy of the class-action lawsuit filing is available here.