The Super Bowl Brings Passionate Fans…and Lawsuits

The Super Bowl Brings Passionate Fans…and Lawsuits

By Kristin Naidysh - This post was originally published January 2017.

Super Bowl 51 kicks off this weekend and, believe me, I am well aware. I live walking distance from Houston’s NRG Stadium and for months I have seen new hotels pop up, restaurants change into sports bars, and grocery (read, “beer”) stores stocking their shelves and hiring extra workers.

Despite the inevitable traffic and loud music, I look forward to the Super Bowl for everything that it represents. Few things are more enjoyable and American than people coming together to cheer on their favorite sports team amidst mountains of nachos and buckets of body paint. My Broncos played their way to victory last year, so when it comes to the Super Bowl and Super Bowl parties, I have little to truly complain about.

Others, however, are not as fortunate. As an almost-attorney, I have taken particular interest in reading about legal disputes surrounding the Super Bowl that have surfaced over the years and thought it fitting to discuss some of them here. It is times like these when I am exceptionally happy that my law firm, Strahan Cain, PLLC in Houston, Texas, focuses primarily on corporate transactions and outside general counsel, rather than on the following types of civil litigation. So, fellow sports fans, strap on your helmets and get your attorney friends on speed dial because these stories are some major fumbles that are too good not to share…

1) Dallas Jury Awards $76,000 in Damages to Super Bowl Seat Plaintiffs.

Obstructed view, why not sue? That’s exactly what two disgruntled 2011 Super Bowl patrons did when they weren’t satisfied with the views from their seats at the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers. The two ticket-holders were part of a seven-plaintiff lawsuit brought against the NFL for breach of contract and fraudulent inducement regarding that game. To make things juicier, one of the plaintiffs’ motions alleged attempted witness tampering on behalf of the NFL. The Dallas federal jury ultimately awarded $76,000 in damages and rejected the fraud claims.

2) New Jersey Resident Files Lawsuit Against NFL for Allegedly Rigged Ticket Prices that Kept Him from Affording to Attend the Game.

The 2014 Super Bowl received some less-than-stellar publicity when a New Jersey resident, along with one other gentleman, filed a lawsuit against the NFL. New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium was set to host the big game between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos and the lawsuit claimed that unfair ticketing policies alienated too many football fans. Specifically, the lawsuit alleged the NFL only sold 1% of the tickets for the 2014 Super Bowl directly to the public, making it impossible to buy them anywhere other than on the secondary market – which comes with more than a 100% price inflation. Unfortunately, the plaintiffs and their attorneys failed to huddle up and discuss their strategy before going to court. The Third Circuit quickly dismissed the case for lack of standing because, quite frankly, the plaintiffs never purchased any tickets. Additionally, the NFL itself does not actually do any of the ticket sales. The general admission tickets were distributed via lottery, so the law did not apply. Oops!

3) Prison Inmate Sues NFL because the “Wrong Team” Went to the Super Bowl.

An inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Mercer filed a motion in early January 2014 against the NFL in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, requesting a temporary emergency injunction to halt the playoffs over a bad referee call in a Week 17 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers. In his lawsuit, the inmate (who is currently doing time for murder) states that “Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop missed a 41-yard field goal attempt with 4 seconds left in regulation, sending the game against the Chargers to overtime. The Chargers won the game in overtime, advancing to the playoffs as the AFC's sixth seed and eliminating the Steelers from the postseason. But the Chargers were in an illegal formation on the missed field goal and should have been penalized, which would have given Succop another chance at the field goal from five yards closer. Had he made it, the Chargers almost certainly would have been eliminated and the Steelers would have made the playoffs.” In addition to an emergency injunction, the Pennsylvania inmate requested monetary damages totaling $25,000, plus his legal costs. The NFL, for the most part, admits to the missed call by the official in question, but the judge dismissed the lawsuit as being “frivolous and nonsensical.”

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