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PAC Can Sue Concert Promoter Over Loan

(CN) - The promoter of a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert that was canceled due to weather during the 2012 Republican National Convention may have been unjustly enriched by a loan from a right-leaning advocacy group, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras refused to dismiss some of American Action Network's unjust enrichment claims against Cater American LLC, a Wyoming-based event production company.

According to the ruling, the parties began talking about working together on convention-related concerts in 2011. Over a matter of months, they finalized agreements for a variety of events scheduled to be held at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., including concerts by Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

"As part of their relationship, AAN and defendants also reached out to several other musical acts, including Dolly Parton, Kelly Clarkson, Pitbull, and Lady Gaga," the ruling states.

The invitation-only Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, to be held in Tampa's Liberty Plaza, was canceled due to the threat posed by the fast-approaching tropical storm Isaac, according to a report published by the Tampa Bay Times.

The newspaper also published a statement from the band's lead singer, Johnny Van Zant, which said, "With the weather conditions unknown and for the safety of our fans and friends, it is best to cancel the show and not put anyone in harm's way."

When the concert wasn't rescheduled, American Action Network asked for the return of its $150,000 deposit for concert tickets and repayment of a $200,000 loan extended to cover concert-related expenses.

But Cater American and founder Robert Wayne Jennings refused to return the money, so the political action committee filed a federal lawsuit for unjust enrichment and breach of contract in Washington, D.C.

American Action Network claimed the contract called for the deposit to be returned if the show was canceled for any reason other than its own negligence. The defendants said the deposit was payment for work it had already performed before the cancellation.

In their motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue, Cater American and Jennings quoted the Lynyrd Skynrd hit "Freebird," suggesting the case "must be traveling on now" to Florida, where the concert was to occur.

Contreras dismissed the unjust enrichment claim related to the $150,000 ticket deposit but allowed the remaining claims over the alleged $200,000 loan to proceed.

"[T]here is still a live dispute as to whether AAN's alleged $200,000 loan to defendants is covered by the written contract," Contreras wrote. "The court will therefore deny defendants' motion to dismiss the unjust enrichment claim."

In his ruling, Contreras held that Washington, D.C., was the proper venue because the PAC is based in the city, most of the contract negotiations occurred there, and "the harm caused by defendants' conduct will squarely have been felt within the District of Columbia."

Contreras also denied the PAC's motion for jurisdictional discovery and sanctions.

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