SeaWorld settlement in EZ Pay lawsuit nets checks for park-goers in Virginia, other states

Park President Carl Lum and three fifth-graders from An Achievable Dream take one of the first trips down Colossal Curl. (WYDaily/Courtesy of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment)
Park President Carl Lum and three fifth-graders from An Achievable Dream take one of the first trips down Colossal Curl. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment)

A class action lawsuit is paying off for some SeaWorld guests.

Some Busch Gardens Williamsburg goers have reported receiving settlement checks in the mail stemming from a class action lawsuit involving SeaWorld and several EZ Pay customers who alleged their SeaWorld passes were automatically renewed and they were charged without their consent.

Court documents show the settlement administrator finished mailing the checks on or before Aug. 9.

The checks are a cut of an $11.5 million settlement finalized in April between SeaWorld and four customers, three of whom were residents of Florida and one of whom was from Chesterfield, Virginia, according to court documents.

“This case has been vigorously litigated for over four years,” an attorney serving as co-counsel for the plaintiffs wrote in a document.

A portion of the settlement will be divvied up between customers who bought year-long SeaWorld EZ Pay passes for SeaWorld’s parks in California, Florida, Texas and Virginia.

Each of the main plaintiffs were given $10,000, $2.88 million went to attorney fees and the rest is earmarked for additional customers who filed a claim.

The March 19, 2019 deadline has already passed for EZ Pay members to file a claim, but those who filed within the deadline will receive at least $31.75 per annual pass, according to a motion for final settlement approval dated April 11, 2019.

About 38,000 claimants who made their EZ Pay payments with a debit card will receive an additional $13.

SeaWorld has not admitted to any wrongdoing in the case, but instead settled to avoid additional, costly litigation, according to court documents. 

The lawsuit was first filed by Jason Herman in December 2014, who said he bought annual passes for SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa, paying on a monthly payment plan. After the annual pass was paid off, Herman alleged SeaWorld continued charging the monthly $35.40 payment without his consent to renew the pass. 

SeaWorld and the plaintiffs jointly asked for an extension for mailing payments to claimants on July 12. The process involves the settlement administrator, KCC Class Action Services LLC, mailing checks and verifying mailing addresses for about 132,000 claimants, according to court documents.

The request for an extension said the settlement administrator would need an additional 15 to 20 business days to complete the payments, up to Aug. 9.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.