A consumer lawsuit filed against Major League Baseball and its teams has been largely disposed of by the court, with a California federal judge dismissing charges against the league and two teams based in the state this week. The proposed class action featured fan complaints about no refunds being given for games that had been cancelled due to COVID-19. But in the ensuing months, the judge ruled, all six plaintiffs who bought tickets directly from a team had already received their refund, rendering the league and team participation in the lawsuit moot.
“As this once-in-a-century pandemic has unfolded, all 30 MLB clubs — including the clubs from which plaintiffs allegedly purchased tickets — have implemented policies offering refunds and credits for tickets sold to games now impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” MLB said in its motion to dismiss. “In short, plaintiffs are now pursuing refunds they have already received.”
The ruling follows ones issued by Judge Fischer in September that fans who purchased tickets from MLB or teams had no standing to sue Ticketmaster, Live Nation, StubHub or its subsidiaries over refunds. Such claims were shipped to arbitration instead, as outlined in the terms and conditions agreed to by the customers upon their purchase of the tickets in the first place.
The fans hit MLB, its teams and the ticketing companies with the proposed class action in April. They claimed that the league continued to say games were “postponed” despite the growing likelihood that many or all of the games wouldn’t be played for weeks, a move they argued was a “pretext” to avoid paying refunds.
But Judge Fischer found on Sept. 14 that the fans failed to sufficiently allege any conspiracy existed among the league, teams and ticketing companies. Most of the fans’ allegations are vague, and the allegations with more of a factual basis are irrelevant to the ticket merchants, she said.
“Nowhere do plaintiffs allege that Ticketmaster — an authorized reseller of MLB tickets — and StubHub — a fan-to-fan resale ticket merchant — had the power to affirmatively cancel baseball games,” Judge Fischer said. “That was squarely in the hands of the MLB, commissioner and team defendants.”
Lawyer for the plaintiffs, Peggy Wedgworth, expressed disappointment in the rulings, and said her firm would be considering its options with their clients going forward.
“We are disappointed with the ruling regarding arbitration and are also discussing the best course forward of these claims with our clients,” Wedgworth said.
Following its initial postponement in March, the Major League Baseball season was effectively wiped clean for the year, with a limited season taking place starting in the summer with no fans in attendance at the league’s ballparks. The playoffs are currently underway in front of empty stadiums, but Texas has allowed fans for the National league Championship Series and World Series games, which are to be held at Globe Life Park in Arlington.