Can I Sue for Being Kicked Out of a Concert?
Yes, you may be able to sue for being kicked out of a concert if you were kicked out because of, among other things, your race, religion, sex, or disability. Concert venues cannot discriminate against you because of your membership in a class protected by law. If they do, you can bring a civil rights lawsuit. But if you are kicked out for any other reason, chances aren't great that you'll recover much.
Suing a concert venue can be challenging. The venue will hire capable lawyers to represent it. You may want to have one in your corner, too. Consider consulting with an experienced civil rights attorney in your area if you believe you have been discriminated against, or a contracts lawyer if you were kicked out for some other reason. A reputable law firm can give you legal advice about whether you have a claim, help you understand your legal rights, and represent you in court if you wish to bring legal action.
Americans Love Concerts
More than half of Americans attend live music events each year. About 68% of these people went to concerts. While concerts were essentially shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, the number of concert-goers is now back to nearly pre-pandemic levels.
Las Vegas leads the country in the number of concerts each year, and its many venues boast some of the top names in Rock, Pop, R&B, Hip-Hop, Soul, Country, and Latin. But Las Vegas doesn't have a monopoly on great live music venues. According to Rolling Stone, some of the best places for concert-goers to see live music include:
- First Ave (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
- El Club (Detroit, Michigan)
- Hollywood Bowl (Los Angeles, California)
- Red Rocks (Morrison, Colorado)
- Ryman Auditorium (Nashville, Tennessee)
- Stubbs (Austin, Texas)
- Brooklyn Steel (New York, New York)
- Jannus Live (St. Petersburg, Florida)
- Prudential Center (Newark, New Jersey)
Americans Buy Concert Tickets Online
Virtually no one buys their tickets at the venue's box office anymore. People buy them online through one of the following major ticket marketplaces:
- Ticketmaster (part of Live Nation Entertainment)
- Vivid Seats
These marketplaces sell tickets on behalf of the event organizer, such as the artist or the concert promoter, for a fee. Sometimes a hefty fee.
Not Every Concert Experience Is Great
Say your friends constantly tease you over your passion for '80s and '90s music. You try to catch every big name when they come to town (you paid big bucks the first time you saw Madonna in concert). Scrolling social media, you learn that Britney Spears is going on a new tour. Tickets are on sale. To you, her concert is a must-see (you missed seeing her years ago because of cancellations), so you sign in to your well-used Ticketmaster account (credit card already saved in your settings) and click your way through the purchase of a ticket.
Concert day arrives. You go through venue security, find your seat — the place is noisy and packed with ticketholders — and get ready for what you think may be the concert of your lifetime.
A large and intimidating security guard passes by your seat. You look up, offer what you think is a friendly smile, and ask them through the noise if you have time to buy a t-shirt before Britney takes the stage. To your surprise, they look affronted and demand that you leave. You are stunned. You ask them if they are serious, and they respond with a slew of insults that center on how you identify as a person. For example, say a security guard uses the n-word, insults your sexual identity or orientation, or makes fun of your disability before kicking you out.
You make it to your car and are so mad you are literally shaking. You miss a concert you were dying to see and are out the price of an expensive ticket, all because of some intolerant security guard. Britney won't be anywhere near your city until next year. By the time you get home, you are determined not to let this stand. You look into whether you can file a lawsuit.
The first claim you may be able to bring is for illegal discrimination. The federal government and the states have laws that prohibit discrimination in public accommodations such as concert venues.
Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act create what are called “protected classes." You cannot be discriminated against under federal law based on your membership in one of the following protected classes:
- National origin
- Real or perceived disability
Most states have added to this list in their human rights acts so that discrimination against the following protected classes is also prohibited:
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
What Could You Recover for Illegal Discrimination?
If you can prove you were discriminated against because of your membership in one of these protected classes, you may be able to recover damages. Compensatory damages are intended to make you whole for any loss you may have suffered. For example, since you were discriminated against because of your race, a protected class, you may be able to recover the cost of your ticket, parking fees, and arguably gas money. You could also argue that you are entitled to pain and suffering for the indignity of being discriminated against (but a court might not award you that).
You may be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish a wrongdoer for extreme or outrageous behavior and to deter them and others from doing the same thing. You could argue that in today's world, ejecting someone from a concert because of their race and calling them the n-word is extreme and outrageous.
Finally, you may be able to recover any reasonable fees you paid your lawyer to represent you in your discrimination case. But that depends on where you are. Some states, such as California and Florida, let you recover attorneys' fees; other states, such as Texas and New York, don't. Make sure you check your state's law.
Breach of Contract Claim
A second claim you may be able to bring is for breach of contract. A contract is an agreement between two or more parties that creates in each party a legal duty to do or not do something. If one party fails to do what they promised to do, the law will provide a remedy.
When you bought your ticket on Ticketmaster's website, you had to agree to their terms and conditions to go forward with the purchase. You may have just clicked the box that said “I agree to the Terms and Conditions" without even reading them. Your checking the box and clicking signifies your agreement to Ticketmaster's terms and creates a valid contract between you and Ticketmaster.
If you actually read them, you will see that the terms and conditions are incredibly one-sided. For example, the terms provide that the event organizer can eject anyone they think is “disorderly, who uses vulgar or abusive language, or who fails to comply with Event Organizer Rules" (whatever those might be). That's a pretty vague standard. And it's entirely up to the event organizer to decide if it's been met.
That's not all. The terms and conditions are also full of limitations and restrictions on how you can get legal relief. We highlight a few below, but make sure you read your ticket marketplace's terms carefully.
Limitations on Liability
According to another section of the terms and conditions, The liability of the event coordinator and Ticketmaster for compensatory damages is extremely limited. You give up any right to sue for all sorts of damages that you might otherwise recover in a breach of contract case. The terms also expressly limit your financial recovery to the greater of $100 or the sum you've paid to Ticketmaster over the past twelve months.
Limitations on Legal Relief
Under the terms, you cannot bring an action in court unless it's small claims court. Small claims courts have the power to handle disputes up to a limited amount under state law. If you believe your damages exceed that amount, you either have to give up part of your recovery or are required to seek any legal relief through arbitration.
Arbitration is a legal process in which the parties select a neutral third party, an arbitrator, to decide their dispute. The parties present evidence and arguments to the arbitrator who then issues a ruling. You give up your right to a jury trial, and you have only a very limited right to appeal. Lawyers disagree about whether arbitration in general is as efficient or as fair as a lawsuit.
You also give up your right to bring a class action. A class-action lawsuit is a procedural device in which a number of people with similar claims group their claims together and file them in a single lawsuit. By grouping their claims together, people whose losses are small can still get relief from a court. Otherwise, filing a lawsuit on their own may not be worth the expense.
A Lawyer Could Help You
It's one thing to get kicked out of a concert if you were a little wild and misbehaving. It's harder to swallow if you think you didn't do anything wrong. And it's even worse if you are kicked out just because some security guard discriminates against you.
If you believe you were wrongfully ejected from a concert, you may want to meet with an experienced lawyer in your area. See a civil rights attorney if you believe you've been illegally discriminated against. Otherwise, a contracts lawyer could advise you about your legal rights and help you decide whether you should take legal action.