Favorable Court Decision Secured by Simmons Hanly Conroy for New York Electronic Ticket Buyers

Firm secures two favorable outcomes within months that enforce the New York Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, a consumer protection statute

NEW YORK (July 7, 2014) – Simmons Hanly Conroy, a national complex litigation firm, has won a favorable court decision for those who buy paperless tickets to entertainment events in New York in what could become a groundbreaking class action lawsuit involving electronic tickets.

The New York Supreme Court rejected on June 30 a motion by event venue Bowery Ballroom to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Simmons Hanly Conroy on behalf of consumers who purchased electronic tickets to entertainment events in New York. The suit alleges that Bowery violated the state’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Law when it sold the plaintiff, Ms. Ligia Pires, a paperless ticket that could not be freely transferred. Ms. Pires seeks damages and injunctive relief on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated.

The court’s decision is important because the case is the first of its kind under the New York Arts and Cultural Affairs laws, and “the decision confirms that consumers have an effective means to enforce their rights under that law,” said Attorney Thomas Sheridan, a shareholder at Simmons Hanly Conroy who is prosecuting the case along with shareholders Mitchell Breit and Derek Brandt.

“When you’re dealing with issues of first impression, when no one has ever brought this issue before the courts before, it’s important to get the judge to agree that the facts alleged, if proved, will entitle consumers to a remedy,” Mr. Sheridan said.

Pires bought a ticket through Ticketmaster to a performance of the “The Temper Trap” at the Bowery Ballroom in March 2012. She attempted to transfer the ticket to a friend, but Ticketmaster refused because the Ballroom has listed its tickets as “non-transferrable.”

In 2010, the New York legislature amended the New York Arts and Cultural Affairs Law to prohibit venues and other places of entertainment from selling paperless tickets unless they can be independently and freely transferred. Many ticket sellers, including, Ticketmaster and Bowery, often failed to obey the law, which led the New York City Council in 2012 to call for greater enforcement of the public’s rights.

Justice Saliann Scarpulla dismissed the Bowery’s argument that the case could not proceed because Pires did not suffer a direct injury since the ticket was intended for her friend. “Pires’ loss was not merely a loss suffered by her friend who was unable to attend the event… Pires alleges a personal, direct loss when the ticket that she purchased was rendered useless because she could not transfer the ticket as required by law,” Scarpulla wrote in the order.

This is the second favorable outcome Simmons Hanly Conroy has secured as a result of enforcing this consumer protection statute. In April, the firm obtained a Consent Award in an arbitration on behalf of two clients in which Ticketmaster agreed that the sale of non-transferrable paperless tickets – the same kind sold in the Bowery case – violated the law and agreed to pay statutory damages to the firm’s clients. It also agreed to an injunction restraining it from selling non-transferrable tickets and agreed to pay statutory attorney’s fees.

“Since the law was changed in 2010, ticket sellers like Ticketmaster and event venues like Bowery have frequently ignored the new law, evidently thinking that consumers would not have an effective way to enforce it,” Mr. Breit said. “These two actions show that the rights of the ticket-buying public can and will be enforced,” Mr. Sheridan added.

The case is Pires v. Bowery Presents, LLC, Case No. 652312/13 (N.Y. Supreme Court).

Click here to read the order.

Click here to read the 2012 City Council Resolution. (PDF)