(CN) – The 9th Circuit pulled the plug on an early appeal by producers of “American Idol” and “Deal or No Deal,” who say a federal judge should have dismissed a class action accusing them of running an illegal lottery by inviting viewers to compete for cash prizes.
The American Idol Challenge broadcast a trivia question about the popular talent show and invited viewers to text the correct answer to a certain number for a 99-cent fee. They could also enter it online for free and were allowed up to 10 entries, each correct submission giving them a shot at the cash prize.
“Deal or No Deal” featured a similar game, called Lucky Chase, in which viewers were asked to choose a briefcase corresponding to a winning number.
Five contestants who failed to win a prize “turned to the high-stakes world of class action litigation,” according to the ruling.
Their lawsuits were consolidated in Los Angeles Federal Court, where the shows’ producers urged U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper to dismiss the class actions. She refused, sparking a “vehement” early appeal in which the defendants sought to certify legal questions to the California Supreme Court while the case was still pending.
A court typically certifies such questions only if there is “substantial ground for difference of opinion,” and an immediate appeal might speed up the resolution.
Judge Cooper found no “difference of opinion,” but agreed to let the defendants appeal, anyway, “in the interests of comity.”
The federal appellate panel in Pasadena said the producers have not met the requirements for an early appeal.
Judge Cooper “expressly, and correctly, found that defendants had failed to demonstrate a substantial ground for difference of opinion,” Judge Kim Wardlaw wrote.
“Therefore, the question of law should not have been certified, and the certification order is jurisdictionally defective.”
“American Idol” defendants include Telescope Inc., American Idol Productions, Project Support Team, FremantleMedia North America, 19 Entertainment, CKX Inc., Fox Broadcasting Co. and Fox Interactive Media.
The “Deal or No Deal” defendants are Endemol USA, NBC Universal, Verisign, M-Qube and Don Jagoda Associates.