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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
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NFL Loses Super Bowl Ticketholder Lawsuit

DALLAS (CN) - The National Football League breached contracts by failing to provide Super Bowl XLV ticketholders correctly installed unobstructed seats, but did not commit fraud, a federal jury ruled Thursday.

The eight-person jury ordered the NFL to pay seven plaintiffs for breaching the terms of their game tickets - each will receive $5,600 to $22,000.

The jury was not persuaded to rule in favor of two plaintiffs who claimed the NFL committed fraudulent inducement.

Several hundred ticketholders to the 2011 game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers at Cowboys Stadium sued the league.

They claim that many temporary seats were not installed by kickoff and that fans were taken outside the stadium or given seats with obstructed views. They dispute NFL claim that it offered them equitable compensation, because they it not cover all their expenses or their frustration at the experience.

The seven ticketholders, represented by Michael Avenatti, with Eagan Avenatti in Newport Beach, Calif., were the first to take the NFL to trial. Avenatti said his clients have "waited four long years for vindication."

"Any effort by the NFL spin machine to now claim victory in this case is nothing short of putting lipstick on a pig," Avenatti said after the verdict.

NFL attorney Thad Behrens, with Haynes Boone in Dallas, disagreed. He told reporters the league is "pleased" with the verdict.

"We appreciate the time and attention the jury paid in this case," Behrens said. "We are pleased because the NFL did not defraud any of its fans."

During the two-week trial, NFL attorneys told jurors the league accepted responsibility for the problems from the beginning and that the issue is only how much of the plaintiffs' expenses the league should pay.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell testified in a video deposition that the league "accepts responsibility" for the seating failures.

U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn said she would give plaintiffs' attorneys until March 18 to subpoena Scott Suprina, president of seating contractor Seating Solutions.

Before jury deliberation began Wednesday, Suprina told ESPN.com that the NFL had pressured him before trial not to throw it "under the bus," in exchange for the reinstatement of a multimillion-dollar furniture-licensing deal.

Avenatti asked the judge on Wednesday to halt the jury's deliberations or declare a mistrial based on the allegations.

"Suprina alleges that the NFL successfully influenced his testimony through the promise of financial gain (aka witness tampering)," the plaintiffs' motion for subpoena stated .

"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, the motion said.

The verdict came two days after Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones faced tough questions on the witness stand about whether his quest to set the Super Bowl attendance record at the game affected the displacement of fans .

The Cowboys and Jones are no longer parties to the lawsuit.

In a separate lawsuit in August 2014, Judge Lynn dismissed the Cowboys as a defendant because the game ticket "is a contract only between the NFL and a ticket purchaser."

Follow @davejourno
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