Court Sides With Alum on Season Ticket Fees
(CN) - A University of South Carolina booster who made a deal with the school to purchase premium football and basketball tickets need not pay an extra licensing fee, the state's highest court ruled.
George Lee III signed a contract with the university and its Gamecock Club that would allow him to purchase such tickets in exchange for him naming the university as the sole beneficiary of a $100,000 life insurance policy.
The university nevertheless instituted a seat licensing fee that he and other Gamecock Club members would face to have the right to buy season tickets.
If he wanted to keep his season tickets for eight seats per game, Lee had to pay $325 for each seat. He paid the fee under protest.
Later, Lee and his wife, Elizabeth, filed suit to have the fee requirement declared a violation of the contract he signed with the university.
The Richland County Circuit Court ruled for the university, stating that the licensing fee did not deprive him of the right to buy season tickets.
The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed, 4-1, last week.
"The university breached the agreement by requiring Lee to pay the additional seat license fee to retain the opportunity to purchase tickets," Justice John Kittredge wrote for the majority. "The agreement reflects the agreed upon bargain between Lee and the university."
Kittredge said the agreement did not include any limitations or conditions.
"Thus, by requiring Lee to pay the seat license fee before purchasing season tickets, the university has attempted to impose an additional term that the parties did not agree upon," he wrote. "This unilateral attempt to modify the agreement is impermissible."
Justice Costa Pleicones said he would affirm because he is "unable to find any language [in the contract] prohibiting additional fees."
"I disagree with the notion that Lee received nothing," Pleicones wrote. "As he concedes, he is a Lifetime Scholarship Member, with all its attendant benefits, and he has opportunity to purchase tickets in the same manner as everyone else at that level."