NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Hundreds of thousands of people who attended concerts at a New Jersey amphitheater over eight years would get free tickets and discount coupons under a preliminary court settlement reached with promoter Live Nation.
Two New Jersey men sued Live Nation in 2009, claiming it was illegal to tack on a $6 parking fee to each ticket at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel when not all concertgoers drive. They also charged Live Nation's "no-fee" promotion was deceptive.
A federal judge in Trenton approved the preliminary settlement Monday.
In court papers filed recently, Live Nation estimated that the proposed settlement would affect about 363,000 people who attended shows at the arts center between June 2003 and June 2011. Those people would each be entitled to three free lawn tickets to a concert in the next four years, as well as $5 discount coupons for when they purchase tickets.
Lawn tickets for a concert featuring Journey and the Steve Miller Band next June were listed for $33.75 to $48.50 on Live Nation's website Tuesday.
"We think it's fair value for the claims, and we think that given the fact that these people are all concertgoers, they will appreciate the settlement," said Lee Squitieri, an attorney for one of the plaintiffs.
Henry Wolfe, another plaintiffs' attorney, called the settlement "substantial."
Under terms of the settlement - which still requires final approval after a court hearing next March - Live Nation will admit no wrongdoing. In an emailed statement Tuesday, a spokeswoman said the company wouldn't comment on the settlement details but that it "looks forward to the final resolution of this matter."
Freehold Township resident Michael Katz sued Live Nation in 2009 after buying lawn tickets to a Blink 182 concert. Clifford Davidson, another ticket buyer, filed a similar suit later in the year and the two were combined.
They alleged Live Nation wasn't truthful about its "no service fee Wednesday" promotion and that instead of dropping the fees, the promoter merely incorporated them into the base price of the tickets and then raised the base price.
The parking fee was at the heart of the suit, Wolfe said. Live Nation argued that the fee was added on as a way to ease traffic backups that would have ensued if cars had to stop and pay cash to an attendant. But the lawsuit called the fee "a contrivance for defendants to arbitrarily inflate ticket prices."
If the preliminary settlement receives final approval, Live Nation would still have some control over which concerts it must offer free tickets for. The current agreement requires the promoter to designate a minimum of 60 percent of its live concert events at the PNC Bank Arts Center and Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden as "free ticket events." Live Nation would have sole discretion as to which concerts it designates. A minimum of 200 free tickets would be made available for each show.
Live Nation would also be required to post notices of settlement details in USA Today newspaper editions covering the Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, New Jersey and New York markets, as well as in local New Jersey papers.