When Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule originally tried to realize their vision for Fyre Festival, the disastrous island music festival, this vision likely did not include fighting multiple lawsuits. Now, Ja Rule has alleged that his former business partner McFarland ripped off his artistic vision for the festival. As reported by Law360, this allegation came before U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel, who is overseeing seeing two civil class actions against Ja Rule and McFarland. Ja Rule’s lawyer, Thomas Herndon, stated to Judge Castel that Ja Rule’s role in Fyre Fest was “to bring the artistic idea to life.” Herdon then alleges that McFarland poached the rapper’s vision and executed it completely on his own, thus shielding Ja Rule from liability. Herndon also implied that McFarland may have also forged documents pertaining to the festival. These new allegations came two weeks after prosecutors in New York lodged fresh charges against McFarland, accusing him of committing wire fraud and lying to banks.
The named plaintiffs in the two class-action lawsuits before Judge Castel, Matthew Herlihy and Sean Daly, are seeking damages for negligence. Both allege that festival goers were subject to horrendous conditions as there was not adequate food, shelter, or basic amenities at the festival. Moreover, both complaints allege that even after the festival organizers were aware that they were unprepared for the festival, they still continued ticket sales and even solicited VIP upgrades from existing customers. Herlihy goes further and alleges that Ja Rule and McFarland engaged in fraud while advertising their festival as a luxurious 5-star experience to potential buyers, even after it became clear that the festival was unable to fulfill those promises.
Both the civil class actions and the criminal case take place in the Southern District of New York. Other civil lawsuits relating to this matter have been filed in California, Florida, and New Jersey. A request to centralize these suits in a multidistrict setting has already been declined.
Adele Zhang is an Entertainment Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2020).