A series of lawsuits filed in different states against StubHub over its coronavirus refund policy are to be centralised in California.

Suits filed in California, New York and Wisconsin will now be heard together in San Francisco, in the Northern District of California, following a decision by the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), which seeks to streamline cases across state borders where possible. The lawsuits allege StubHub wrongly changed its policies for refunds for events cancelled or delayed due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Three plaintiffs involved in cases against StubHub, Seatgeek and Vivid Seats moved to centralise the litigation in the Northern District of Illinois or the Western District of Wisconsin.

Defendants StubHub and its affiliate Last Minute Transactions supported the creation of a StubHub-only Multidistrict Litigation (MDL), but to be heard in the Western District of Wisconsin or the Northern District of Illinois. Only one plaintiff supported centralisation in California, while two opposed centralisation.

However, the panel decided that the case should be heard in California as the majority of the suits were filed there and that is also where StubHub is headquartered.

The panel ruled: “We find that the actions against StubHub involve common questions of fact, and that centralisation of actions against StubHub in the Northern District of California will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation.

“We are persuaded that the Northern District of California, where four cases against StubHub are

pending and where StubHub is based, is an appropriate transferee district. All actions against StubHub were filed within a few weeks of each other, and no action has advanced significantly further than any other action.

“Centralisation before Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr., allows us to assign this litigation to an able jurist who has experience presiding over complex, multidistrict litigation. We are confident that he will steer these cases on a prudent course.”

The panel decided not to amalgamate similar suits filed against Vivid Seats in Illinois and Seatgeek in New York. It said the operators employ different terms of use, different arbitration agreements, different marketing and different choice of law provisions.

It ruled: “There are no allegations of a conspiracy and no defendant is named in an action alongside another vendor competitor. Creating an industry-wide MDL for all three defendants would seem to complicate pretrial proceedings more than it would streamline them, so we deny this request.”

Back in April, ticket-buyer Matthew McMillan submitted a complaint to the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, stating StubHub “sought to surreptitiously shift their losses onto their innocent customers.”

The lawsuit claims that StubHub changed its refund policy following the Covid-19 outbreak, switching from a full reimbursement to a StubHub coupon worth 120% of purchases.

At the time, StubHub told TheTicketingBusiness: “As a marketplace, we act as an intermediary for buyers and sellers. In normal times, we’ve made the decision to refund buyers before collecting money from the seller to offer buyers more convenience. And under normal circumstances, this works well, even with StubHub taking the risk of timing delays and some losses when we are unable to collect from the seller.

“With the coronavirus impacting 28,000+ events and the associated magnitude of challenge in recouping monies owed by sellers over the coming months, it is currently impossible for us to offer immediate cash refunds to all buyers.”