The National Football League lost a bid for dismissal of a lawsuit brought by ticket holders displaced from their seats at February’s Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The judge threw out claims against Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones.
About 475 ticket holders had to watch the NFL title game between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers on video screens. A group of 2,821 were given new seats or kept waiting outside the stadium, according to court papers. The league and Jones said refund offers they made to the fans were legally adequate and more than what they were entitled to.
U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn in Dallas wrote in her ruling yesterday that “at this stage in the litigation” the damages fans suffered have not been determined and “there is no proof in the record that the offers of compensation were in fact sent to the individual plaintiffs.”
The NFL and Jones installed 13,000 temporary seats at the stadium in a bid to break the Super Bowl attendance record. Fire marshals allowed 11,740 seats to be used. The league and Jones said in an earlier filing that they offered to pay 3,296 fans $4.5 million to $9.3 million.
“In litigation, much like football, you have to play four quarters,” Michael Avenatti of Eagan Avenatti LLP, a lawyer for the fans, said in a statement. He called the seating problems at the game “a debacle.”
Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the league, said the NFL Is pleased with the court’s dismissal of all of the claims in the lawsuit except for a contract claim.
“We continue to believe our offers meet or exceed what the fans are entitled to under the law,” he said in an e-mail. “We have been encouraged by the positive response from fans who received these offers.”
Brett Daniels, a spokesman for Jones and the Cowboys, said they had no comment on the ruling.
Lynn dismissed all claims against Jones, giving the plaintiffs the option to re-plead two of them, including a breach-of-contract claim against Jones and the Cowboys.
“The fact that the Super Bowl was held at Cowboys Stadium and that Jerry Jones stated afterward that he accepted responsibility for the seating problems does not mean that the Cowboys defendants became parties to a contract between the NFL and the plaintiffs,” she wrote.
Avenatti said the claims would be re-pleaded in the next three weeks.
“Jones got a temporary reprieve,” said Avenatti. He said that because many fans bought tickets directly from the Cowboys, the team and its owner have liability.
The case is Simms v. Jones, 3:11-cv-00248 U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).
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