In a lawsuit filed recently in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, a pair of fans allege that MLB, its teams, and a host of ticket re-sellers have wrongly refused to refund ticket costs and associated fees relating to the postponed 2020 season. Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com and Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times are among those to cover the filing.
The would-be class representatives cover the two groups seeking relief: one is a partial season ticketholder and the other bought single-game tickets. In both cases, it seems, full or partial refunds have not been available because MLB continues to treat games as being postponed rather than cancelled.
Reflecting its attempt to achieve class certification, the suit doesn’t just go after the specific teams and ticket agencies involved in those cases. The complaint lists all thirty teams and four ticket companies: official MLB partner StubHub along with Ticketmaster, Live Nation, and Last Minute Transactions.
We are now several weeks into the scheduled 2020 MLB season with no end in sight to the shutdown. Most of the current chatter has surrounded the possibility of returning to play without fans in attendance — an outcome that would obviously warrant a refund.
But the league has yet to formally abandon hope of a full 2020 season, providing at least partial or temporary public relations and legal cover for the fact that individual fans’ funds are still sitting in the bank accounts of these large companies. Per Rogers, the eventual plan is likely “to offer credit toward tickets for 2021 if no games are played this summer.”
While these businesses are trying to work through surprising, difficult, and wholly unprecedented issues, many individuals are dealing with yet tougher times. And there’s little doubt that the money will ultimately have to be returned if the tickets can’t be honored for the 2020 season. The ESPN report does seem to indicate that the 2021 credit scenario would be presented as an alternative to a refund in the (exceedingly likely) event that games are indeed cancelled. The named defendants have yet to respond in court to the initial filing.
The lawsuit, then, is likely to spur battles over timing and other specifics — if, at least, its plaintiffs are successful at achieving class certification. There’ll surely also be a big fight over where the suit should be heard and what law will apply. As Shaikin notes, the initial pleading asserts claims arising under several uniquely consumer-protective California statutes.