COVID-19 has changed the daily lives for all Americans, and this includes a spring with no baseball. Fans across the nation had tickets in hand for the 15 games set for Opening Day on March 26, 2020. However, on March 12, 2020, Major League Baseball (MLB) announced that Opening Day would be postponed. Now, seven weeks into the original MLB schedule and no games played, fans are beginning to see the season as cancelled, despite MLB’s attempt to come to an agreement with the players to begin the season in July.
On April 20, 2020, fans in California filed a class-action in federal court against MLB, StubHub, Ticketmaster, Live Nation, and Last Minute Transactions demanding refunds for their tickets to now indefinitely postponed games. The plaintiffs argue that it is very unlikely that the 2020 season will proceed and, if it does, it will likely be without fans in attendance.
People aren’t just demanding refunds for baseball tickets. Class-action suits have been filed against American Airlines and Delta for failure to refund plane tickets, against SXSW for failure to refund tickets to the cancelled music festival, and against StubHub for a variety of tickets sold to now cancelled events. Class-action suits have been filed against 24 Hour Fitness, New York Sports Club, and Town Sports International for continuing to charge gym members their membership fees despite the gyms being closed due to COVID-19. There have also been class-action suits against colleges and universities, including Columbia, Pace University, Long Island University, University of California, California State University, Drexel, and the University of Miami, demanding a refund for tuition and fees because of campus closures due to COVID-19.
Courts will examine the terms of the tickets or fees to determine refundability. Contractual terms about the ticket or fee rolling over or some other alternative remedy other than a direct refund may come into play. Expect more class-action suits in a broader variety of industries as people continue to pay for services and goods they can no longer use or attend.