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Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Jet Fans' Spygate Suit Heard by Third Circuit

Can a patron sue based on the lack of quality or fairness of a match? Maybe yes.

That question will be decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in the latest twist to the infamous "spygate" affair. As many recall, this tempest concerned the actions of New England Patriots' employee who videotaped the Jet's defensive signals. The NFL, after fining the team and head coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and the team $250,000, thought the matter was over.

But not so fast. Two Jets fans (who are attorneys) pursued a novel legal claim. Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran, representing a class of Jets' season ticket holders, seek class action status and claim damages for the ticket price of the eight games played by the two teams in Giants' Stadium from 2000 to 2007. The trial court, in Mayer v. Belichick, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 23052, concluded that none of the causes of action -- which included tortious interference with contract, deceptive business practices, breach of contract and quasi-contract -- resulted in any actual injury and thereby dismissed the claim. The appeals court, however, apparently considered the plaintiff-appellants' claims seriously enough to grant argument.

Imagine the potential effect of a positive ruling by the court. Could it open the door for groups of fans to sue for their money back based on one team reading the catcher's signals or surreptitiously seeing diagrams of basketball plays. A fascinating and (maybe horrifying)thought.

For more, read here.


I have been following this case as well. In addition to some of the potential ramifications of the decision that Professor Conrad points out I have focused on one very interesting and currently relevant potential spin off claim. It would appear to me that if the 3rd circuit opens the door for consumer fans to have a valid expectation right to the quality of a game they attend, the most immediate next step might be the case of a ticket holder who attends a game where non-injured star players sit out. For example, the Colts vs. Jets game at the end of this past NFL season, and many of the games from the end of the NBA regular season this past week. With this topic getting much coverage in the media such a claim might be timely and a natural follow up test case. It would be interesting to see how such a claim might play out with the natural distinction being focusing on individual players (component of the product) vs. the overall quality and legitimacy of the competition itself (product).

Another natural spin off of this decision might be a change to the language and terms of individual tickets and season ticket packages to limit the expectations of consumers in the quality/legitimacy of the event they attend.

Anonymous Matthew Corwin -- 4/15/2010 2:32 PM  

It would appear to me that if the 3rd circuit opens the door for consumer fans to have a valid expectation right to the quality of a game they attend, the most immediate next step might be the case of a ticket holder who attends a game where non-injured star players sit out.

Best Attorney

Anonymous gracemorgan -- 4/24/2010 12:28 AM  

Matthew, THAT might lead to THIS:

Imagine if instead of a team sitting out certain players (using your example, the Colts' Peyton Manning) in a meaningless end of season game (to the Colts), say Manning plays and gets injured, out for the season.

Could then the Colts' season-ticket holders (or wherever the Colts' playoff game[s] are played), then sue the Colts for playing Manning in a meaningless game, getting him injured and out for the season, thereby..."depriving THEM of the 'quality and legitimacy' of the [game they attend]" and of their best player? Could the network--CBS here--also sue the Colts?

At what point does a coach's duty to make sure his team's best players are available for the playoffs--and ultimately to win games--get overruled by...a court of law???

How would this also apply if the player is suspended because of violation of team rules, automatic league suspension or other league discipline, or even family emergency/death of a family member?

No, this needs to be nipped in the bud NOW or this opens Pandora's box:
Sometime in the near future...:

( Dateline: Denver, CO--
A local judge earlier today, deciding a "class-action" suit brought by Broncos' season ticket holders, has ordered the Indianapolis Colts to play Peyton Manning in their end-of-the-season game on Sunday, even though the game has no meaning for the Colts.
The ticket holders were claiming that they bought tickets under the impression that the Colts were going to play Manning and other starters in the game; they claim they would have not bought season tickets had they known ahead of time that the Colts players were planning to be rested.

Under the effects of a Third Circuit ruling back in 2010, now on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court, a team MUST play its frontline players in every game, reagrdless of meaning or attempts by the team to keep players healthy for the playoffs.

Originally, the Colts were going to rest or otherwise limit playing time for Manning and several starters to minimize the chance of injuries, and to give the backups some extended playing time. That idea has gone by the boards, thanks to the Denver circuit court's decision on the injunction.

The Colts, the NFLPA, and the NFL, in a rare show of unity, are appealing the injunction to a higher court.

Now, doesn't that sound just wrong??

Anonymous Anonymous -- 5/02/2010 10:57 PM  

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