Published on May 4th, 2023 | by Mitchell Driskell1
The Local Lawyer: Barstool Briefs Part 34: “Short Stories on Legal Affairs”
Requiem for Morgan Wallen
“Morgan Wallen may face lawsuits after abruptly canceled concert in Mississippi,” the Los Angeles Times headline said in an article repeating much of which Oxfordians have heard on the street over the two weeks since the cancellation of Sunday night’s show was harshly posted on the stage jumbotrons.
“He broke up with us by text!” is how my law partner described it. And the community feels like a jilted lover dumped with no good explanation. Rumors have flourished, as they do in Oxford, with most disregarding the “lost voice” explanation as a pretext for a cancellation caused by too much partying resulting in a man down before the show.
Video of a security guard circulated calling the lost voice story “bullcrap.” These rumors spread partially with the help of local experience—all of us have friends that come to Oxford who have lost a weekend battle with the Oxford party, going out too strong night one, trying to extend the party into a two-night marathon instead of resting up for night two, failing miserably and ending up sleeping in night two (sometimes into day three) or, worse, winding up at the hospital. It happens, and I think people would have understood if Hardy and Morgan Wallen’s band had come out, explained and did a two hour karaoke party to Wallen’s songs with the Sunday night crowd. The crowd was not in attendance for the awe and majesty of Wallen’s vocals, rather, they were there to party. Nothing angers Oxford more than a ruined party.
“We Ain’t Never Lost A Party,” Larry Wamble, great American. There was no reason why the band could not play and let the people party.
And when was it apparent that Wallen would not be able to go on stage? Did the people in charge intentionally delay the decision or announcement so that they could sell beer and merchandise until the 8 pm announcement? An earlier announcement may have saved people hours getting to the show, hundreds of dollars in travel, food, drink expense, and merchandise expense.
A class-action lawsuit was filed in Oxford federal court on Monday following the cancellation, which correctly pointed out that Wallen’s production company’s ticket refund offer did not come close to reimbursing fans for the cost of attending the concert—travel, food, drink, and light-up blinking cowgirl hats are not covered by a ticket refund.
If you bought your tickets from the big ticket sites then you should be able to get the purchase refund. If you bought your ticket from a random scalper, you’re S.O.L. If you bought it from a friend or family member, then, well, good luck negotiating that without creating hard feelings. The law firms who have been fishing for clients warn that a person should not accept a refund that requires you to sign a release, as a release for the ticket might waive your right to recover other expenses.
The silver lining is that Wallen’s production company did not say that the event would be rescheduled. Ninety-five percent of the time a show is rescheduled, and the dates can be almost a year later or are rescheduled multiple times. In a reschedule, you will not be offered a refund unless the singer/band and their promoter agrees to buy back the tickets, regardless of whether you cannot afford to wait or attend the new date. And none of this refund business covers travel, food, drinks or American Flag belt buckles that say “United We Stand.”
The class action suit filed the day after the cancellation was withdrawn by the people who filed it. They said they were going to refile, but I do not know if they have. I am hesitant about the chances of a class action suit because the members of a class action have to have sufficient “similarity,” but travel, food, drink, and other costs vary widely from two Ole Miss administrators who walked to the show and sat in the University Club seat and a group of recent graduates who flew in from Dallas, missed work, rented an Airbnb, bought new western wear, and made it a big party.
Individual lawsuits can be filed by a lawyer in Circuit or County Court, but the cost of the lawyer will likely be more than the claimed damages. Mississippi residents can file individual lawsuits claiming damages up to $3,500 in their local Justice Court. For a small filing fee, the Justice Court Clerk will let you fill out a Complaint form, but then you must follow specific rules for sending the lawsuit to these out-of-state target defendants (Wallen and the promotion company).
Look up Mississippi Rules of Justice Court Rule 14(h) for the specific rules for doing this, if you want to give it a shot yourself, or see your lawyer about complying with the rule. If you were able to properly serve the production company, I anticipate they would call you to resolve the case before the trial date in a small Mississippi Justice Court.
If Wallen made an honest, last-minute decision that he was physically unable to perform, then there is likely no cause for outrage or litigation. However, if he was negligent in maintaining his ability and/or the announcement was unnecessarily delayed, then people should be mad and able to recover their out-of-pocket expenses. The unforgivable part is that Wallen can never repay us for breaking Oxford’s cardinal rule: Wallen lost the party.
Mitchell Driskell practices law with the Tannehill Carmean firm and has been an Oxford lawyer for twenty two years. You can call him at 662.236.9996 and email him at email@example.com. He practices criminal law, civil law and family law.