An 11th-hour insurance compromise has rescued upcoming concerts and sporting events at Gillette Stadium, a relief not only for the town of Foxborough and The Kraft Group, but for the thousands of ticketholders awaiting big-name performers like Bon Jovi and Taylor Swift.
The months-long battle with the stadium owners has revolved around a decision by the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association, the town’s insurance carrier, to hike the per-person deductible in any stadium legal claim from $7,500 to $50,000, effective July 1.
It was the result of a class-action lawsuit filed against the town and its police chief last summer that claims scores of fans were wrongly placed into protective custodies at concerts without proof they were alcohol-impaired.
Lawyers for Foxborough say the class could reach 2,700 members, a fortune in payouts at the new rate if the case were lost.
Selectmen placed the entertainment licenses for stadium events in escrow in January, seeking to force the Krafts to indemnify the police officers who work the events.
The stalemate was broken at a special, last-ditch selectmen’s meeting on Thursday when the multibillion-dollar company agreed to include law enforcement and civil rights liability coverage for local police details in its general policy.
“I’m glad we reached this point,” said an obviously weary Kraft General Counsel James Cobery, after working around the clock for weeks.“It’s a huge relief.”
Up until Thursday, Kraft officials said they couldn’t legally indemnify a police force they didn’t control and instead said they would help the town find better coverage as a courtesy.
As part of the new agreement, however, the Krafts have permission from their carrier to cover incidents involving police for up to $2 million per potential incident -- to an aggregate per year total of $5 million. Because of that, the town’s carrier agreed to drop the deductible back to $7,500 per person, officials said.
“Sometimes we have to butt heads a little,’’ said Selectmen Chairman Mark Sullivan, one of several officials who has adamantly pushed the company to comply. “But we are trying to be responsible.”
Sullivan’s stance has irked some in town, including resident Stephanie McGowan, who said earlier in the week the relationship with the Krafts is not one to be toyed with.
“We are very lucky our town is not facing cuts like other towns and a lot of it is because we have a stadium,’’ McGowan said in the public comment section of Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting.
She was referencing the millions in annual taxes and per-ticket percentages Foxborough receives from the organization that helps balance the annual budget.
“Sometimes you come off as almost biased,’’ McGowan told board members. “It seems like the Kraft Organization has to do cartwheels to get anything done in this town.”
The insurance clash was the latest disagreement between the town and its largest business partner on issues ranging from shared billboard revenue and wastewater hook-ups, to an outright battle over a $1 billion casino complex proposal that was floated last year, and then withdrawn.
During deliberations on the liability issue, some of which were public, the Krafts’s Cobery laid the blame for the mishap squarely on Town Manager Kevin Paicos, who he said didn’t deliver on a promise to give the company the authorization letter it needed in a timely way to help the town find coverage.
The company only received the clearance it needed to seek options in late June, just days before a town-imposed deadline, Cobery said. Even then, according to an email stream with town officials he made public, the company learned someone in town had tried and failed to find new coverage, rendering the company’s efforts redundant.
Paicos has been among the missing since late May when he left for military leave and never returned to his municipal duties. In the interim, selectmen have had multiple closed-door discussions with a labor lawyer, and have named Town Clerk Bob Cutler as Acting Town Manager.
Selectmen are expected to discuss a move to find a more permanent Interim Town Manager in the next few weeks.
Selectmen also agreed during Thursday’s meeting to extend the curfew for the July 20 Bon Jovi concert to midnight after promoters said opening act, The J. Geils Band, will play an extra-long set.
That was good news to fans like Josh Mulready of Framingham, who, like thousands of others, has been sweating out the wait for news over the insurance issue to see if the concert would go on.
Mulready’s wife and son have 11th-row tickets (on the field) in front of the stage.
“It’s my son's first Bon Jovi concert,’’ he said. “After paying a good amount of money for the tickets they were worried they wouldn’t be able to go and worse yet, would not get their money back. Luckily, this was worked out.’’
Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.