Cowboys Duck Case Over Super Bowl Seating
DALLAS (CN) - The Dallas Cowboys cannot be sued over the Super Bowl XLV seating debacle because they were not a contracting party to ticketing, a federal judge ruled.
Several lawsuits concerning the February 2011 game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington are pending. They involve claims that the temporary bleachers where hundreds of fans had been assigned to sit were not installed by game time. Some fans were allegedly completely displaced to areas outside of the stadium while others were delayed or relocated to other seats - many with obstructed views.
Joseph Greco led one class action that said the team and the National Football League knew some of the seats sold to the game in February 2011 would never be available and concealed the problem until the last possible moment on game day.
He said the defendants had made settlement offers that fell short of adequately compensating fans.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn sided with the Cowboys and dismissed the contract claims against them on Wednesday.
A ticket to the game "is a contract only between the NFL and a ticket purchaser," the ruling states. Lynn shot down claims that the team received 5 percent of tickets to the game from the league for resale to some of the plaintiffs.
"Accepting plaintiffs' version of the facts as true, the fact that the Cowboys defendants sold tickets issued by the NFL to 'one or more plaintiffs' does not alter the nature of the contract, which is between the NFL and the plaintiffs," Lynn wrote. "Plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that the Cowboys defendants were anything more than third-party sellers of tickets to an NFL event and, therefore, have not pleaded the existence of a contract between the Cowboys defendants and any plaintiff."
The fraudulent inducement claims against the team meanwhile failed because the contract was only with the NFL, Lynn said, noting that fraudulent-inducement claims can be made only against the league.
She was not persuaded with the argument that the tickets were sold with the intent not to complete construction of the temporary seating.
"The NFL had nothing to gain by tricking fans into purchasing tickets for seats that it did not believe would be available," Lynn wrote. "Plaintiffs allege that the Cowboys defendants' original plan - alleged to have been subsequently assumed by the NFL - called for the construction of temporary seats, that a building permit was obtained, that many of the temporary seats were in fact installed, and that work on the temporary seating continued even on game day. Without alleging plausible and non-conclusory facts supporting the allegation that the NFL did not intend to have temporary seats constructed for which tickets were sold, plaintiffs cannot recover on a theory of fraudulent inducement as to temporary seats that were not completed and approved by game day."
Lynn also rejected the negligence claim against the team, holding that the fans did not alleged physical harm and they "cannot recover for purely economic harm."
"If the negligence claim stemmed from allegations that the temporary seating was unsafe and a plaintiff was injured, a negligence action might be available," Lynn wrote. "The gratuitous undertaking doctrine does not support the claims asserted against the Cowboys defendants."
Contract claims against the NFL remain intact, however, with Lynn saying they "cannot be determined as a matter of law."
Lynn also preserved claims of fraudulent inducement by omission brought by fans with obstructed views of the game.
The Cowboys did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.