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Kraft Group, town settle conflict over Gillette Stadium

An eleventh-hour compromise over insurance coverage has rescued upcoming concerts and sporting events at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough — a relief not only for the town and stadium owner but also for ticket holders awaiting performers like Bon Jovi and Taylor Swift.

The standoff between the town and the Kraft Group 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. That decision followed a class-action lawsuit filed against the town and its police chief last summer that asserts that scores of people were wrongly placed into protective custody at concerts without proof they were alcohol-impaired.

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Lawyers for Foxborough said the class could reach 2,700 members, which would be a fortune in payouts with the new deductible if the case were lost. Selectmen placed the entertainment licenses for stadium events in escrow, seeking to force the Krafts to indemnify police officers who work the events.

The stalemate was broken at a last-ditch selectmen’s meeting Thursday, when the Krafts’ insurer agreed to include law enforcement and civil rights liability coverage for local police details in its policy.

Up until Thursday, Kraft officials said they couldn’t legally indemnify a police force they didn’t control. Under the new agreement, the company’s insurer will cover cases involving police for up to $2 million per case — to an aggregate per year total of $5 million. Because of that, the town’s insurer agreed to drop the deductible back to $7,500 per person, officials said.

“I’m glad we reached this point,” said Kraft general counsel James Cobery. “It’s a huge relief.”

Mark Sullivan, selectmen chairman, one of several Foxborough officials who pushed for concessions from Kraft, said town leaders were “trying to be responsible” to local taxpayers.

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“Sometimes we have to butt heads a little,’’ he said.

Sullivan’s stance irked some in town, who warned the town’s 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,’’ resident Stephanie McGowan said in the public comment portion of Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting, alluding to the millions in annual taxes and per-ticket percentages Foxborough receives from the company that helps balance the town’s budget.

The insurance clash was the latest disagreement between the town and its largest taxpayer on issues ranging from shared billboard revenue and waste-water hookups, to an outright battle over a $1 billion casino complex proposal that was floated last year and then withdrawn.

At their meeting Thursday, selectmen also agreed to extend the curfew for the July 20 Bon Jovi concert to midnight, after promoters said the opening act, The J. Geils Band, will play an extra-long set.

That was good news to Josh Mulready of Framingham, who like other fans had been anxious to find out whether the concert would happen.

“It’s my son’s first Bon Jovi concert,’’ he said. “Luckily, this was worked out.”

Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at michelebolton@live.com.

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