DALLAS (CN) – The National Football League was accused of tampering with a seating contractor witness as a federal jury began deliberations Wednesday in a lawsuit over botched seating at Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium.
U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn told the eight-person jury it must reach a unanimous verdict.
Seven ticketholders to the 2011 game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers sued the league for breach of contract, claiming many temporary seats were not installed by kickoff.
Some fans were taken to areas outside the stadium, while others were given seats with obstructed views.
The plaintiffs claim the league’s offers of compensation do not reimburse them for all of their expenses, nor for their disappointment and frustration.
Soon after the jury left the courtroom to deliberate, plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Avenatti, with Eagan Avenatti of Newport Beach, Calif., asked the judge to stop deliberations and filed a motion to subpoena Scott Suprina, president of seating contractor Seating Solutions, to testify.
Avenatti filed the motion hours after ESPN.com reported that Suprina had stated his company was not to blame for the seating issues and that he was “encouraged to not tell the whole story” by the league.
The NFL “reinforced what my position should be before the deposition,” Suprina said, according to ESPN.
A video recording of Suprina’s deposition was played for jurors during trial, in which he “deflected blame” from the NFL and blamed icy weather during Super Bowl week. Suprina said he was told it would be in his best interests to “stay in their favor.”
Suprina said he was “led to believe” that if he did not “throw the NFL under the bus,” a sister company of Seating Solutions would get its multimillion-dollar license reinstated to put NFL logos on furniture. His application to the league was denied last year when the company reapplied, ESPN.com reported.
“Suprina alleges that the NFL successfully influenced his testimony through the promise of financial gain (aka witness tampering),” the 4-page motion states. “As the court is well aware, Mr. Suprina was the very first witness called by the NFL in its case in chief and is one of two primary witnesses the NFL relies on to prove that the NFL did not engage in fraud as it relates” to two of the plaintiffs.
Avenatti asked the judge to reopen the case or declare a mistrial.
Lynn declined to halt deliberations but did not deny the motion. She said she could withhold a final judgment, giving the plaintiffs more time to investigate the new claims.
During closing arguments, Avenatti said the NFL told the displaced fans “nothing,” despite knowing the temporary seats would be an issue. He told jurors the NFL tried to blame the Dallas Cowboys for the debacle.
Representing the NFL, attorney Thad Behrens, with Haynes Boone in Dallas, told jurors the league has accepted responsibility for the problems from the start. He said the only issue at hand is how much of the displaced fans’ expenses the NFL should pay.
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