html
Star-Telegram.com

Super Bowl ticket holders file amended fraud lawsuit over seating at game

Posted Friday, Dec. 23, 2011

By Susan Schrock

sschrock@star-telegram.com

Super Bowl XLV ticket holders affected by the temporary seating debacle at Cowboys Stadium in February filed new fraud complaints this week against the Dallas Cowboys, owner Jerry Jones and the National Football League in federal court.

Late last month, a federal judge denied the NFL's request to dismiss the pending class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of ticket holders who seek compensation because they were either denied their seats, delayed from getting to them or assigned ones with obstructed views.

The judge dismissed most of the claims, essentially eliminating the Dallas Cowboys as a defendant.

In a 51-page amended complaint filed Wednesday in Dallas, lawyers for the plaintiffs provided statements, news releases and facts that they said demonstrate that the league, Dallas Cowboys and Jones knew or should have known that sold seats would not be available or had obstructed views and "had every opportunity to avoid the debacle and be honest with fans, and yet chose not to."

Michael Avenatti, an attorney for the fans, said his clients were betrayed by the defendants' greed and push to break Super Bowl attendance records.

"Jones was unabashed in his desire to set the attendance record at all costs," says the suit, which outlines how Jones and the stadium benefited financially from concession sales and ticket and parking taxes that help pay off stadium debt.

'Shark hitting red meat'

The complaint also includes public comments Jones reportedly made days before the game, which include comparing the speed that fans were purchasing tickets to "a shark hitting red meat."

According to the complain, he also said: "We're thinking of selling more tickets. I know this. However many we print, people will buy."

The class action lawsuit says that the NFL breached its contract with ticket holders and that the settlement offers made by the league after the game failed to fully compensate fans. The plaintiffs are seeking more than $5 million, not counting costs and interest, according to court documents.

"When the court dismissed most of the claims in the lawsuit last month, it took the customary step of giving the plaintiffs an opportunity to try to fix the problems with the dismissed claims," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an e-mail Thursday.

"We are reviewing their attempt to resurrect these claims in the amended lawsuit and will respond in due course, likely with a further motion to dismiss. But the suggestion that the NFL somehow defrauded fans has no merit," he said.

City warned Cowboys

The new complaint claims the NFL purposefully concealed problems with the temporary seating to avoid bad publicity.

Hours before kickoff, Arlington fire officials and building inspectors deemed 1,250 of the 13,000 temporary bleacher-style seats unsafe because of numerous code violations, including missing handrails and guardrails.

The city had warned Cowboys for weeks that the seat construction contractor, Seating Solutions, was behind schedule and had not provided adequate documentation on issues like structural engineering.

The league, which had also been notified by the Cowboys about the situation days before the game, did not inform ticket holders until they had cleared security and their tickets were scanned at the stadium. Overall, about 3,200 fans were affected.

Most fans were accommodated, but at least 400 didn't get seats at all. The complaint says ticket holders were not notified that they would be in temporary seats or would have obstructed views of the field, stadium or the large video display board.

"We have now provided over 40 paragraphs in the complaint detailing the who, what, when and where of the fraud perpetrated on the fans. And we have also now provided the why -- money," Avenatti said in a statement. "We look forward to presenting this case to a Dallas jury in 2012."

The NFL has said it satisfied its obligations to the displaced fans by offering them the actual prices they paid for their tickets as well as all documented travel, lodging and meal expenses.

About 2,800 people who were delayed getting to their seat or relocated could receive the face value of their tickets or a ticket to a future Super Bowl. About 475 people who did not have a seat had more options: $2,400 plus a ticket to the 2012 Super Bowl, a trip to a future Super Bowl with airfare and a four-night hotel stay, a check for $5,000 or a check for more than $5,000 with documented expenses.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Super Bowl seating suit, amended complaint

Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578

Looking for comments?