Path Cleared for Class-action Lawsuit Against 'Thunder on the Mountain'

Country music festival concert-goers received a legal victory last week when the Arkansas Court of Appeals found that their potential class-action lawsuit could go forward against an organizer of the canceled Thunder on the Mountain event at Mulberry Mountain near Ozark in 2015.

The ticket holders had sued the venture capitalist firm Madison Cos. LLC of Greenwood Village, Colorado, and others because when the event was nixed, they didn’t get a refund.

Madison, though, wanted the case sent to arbitration, where awards are usually smaller than they would be in a court proceeding. Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Alice Gray had denied the request in February, and Madison appealed the ruling to the Arkansas Court of Appeals.

The promoters of the event, Pipeline Productions Inc. and Backwood Enterprises LLC, both of Lawrence, Kansas, also were named as defendants. The plaintiffs received a default judgment against them last December because they never answered the complaint.

The Madison Cos. argued in court that when people purchased their tickets on a website there should have been “terms of sale” language that included a binding arbitration agreement.

The Madison Cos. also said it had “absolutely nothing to do with the promotion, sales, or marketing of tickets to Thunder Mountain Festival” and just loaned money to Pipeline, according to the opinion delivered last week by Appeals Court Judge Rita Gruber.

Gruber didn’t find proof that an agreement to arbitrate existed between the Madison Cos. and the ticket holders and affirmed Gray’s ruling.

“We are happy for our clients with the Court of Appeals’ decision,” Scott Poynter of Little Rock, one of the attorneys representing the proposed class members, said in an email to Whispers. “Defendants’ strategy was first one of delay, but also they wanted the case kicked out of court and to take our clients’ right to a jury away from them. We hope to move swiftly now, because most of our clients spent over a thousand dollars in festival tickets and camping passes, and never got their promised refunds.”

An attorney for Madison, Richard Benenson of Denver, didn’t immediately return a call for comment.