Lawsuit over Super Bowl XLV seating debacle will go ahead

Posted Sunday, Jul. 01, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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Super Bowl XLV ticket holders affected by the temporary-seating debacle at Cowboys Stadium in 2011 notified a federal court last week of plans to proceed with a class-action lawsuit against the Dallas Cowboys, owner Jerry Jones and the National Football League after mediation failed.

Attorneys for the ticket holders also filed a motion with the court Tuesday seeking a status conference to begin the case and seeking attorney fees from the NFL and other costs associated with the months-long attempt to reach a settlement outside court.

Ticket holders in the lawsuit were denied their seats, delayed from getting to them or assigned seats with obstructed views. The 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 them.

The plaintiffs seek more than $5 million, not counting costs and interest, according to court documents.

Based on discussions with the NFL this year, the ticket holders' lawyers say they believed at first that the league was "truly interested in resolving the case and engaging in good faith negotiations," according to documents filed last week. The attorneys said, however, that they later came to believe that the league delayed discovery and taking depositions for months so as to settle out of court.

"The defendants purposefully delayed these proceedings for months in bad faith while falsely claiming to be truly interested in resolving the case," the latest motion says.

The NFL denied the bad-conduct allegations.

"This motion is frivolous," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an e-mail to the Star-Telegram. "The overwhelming majority of the claims were resolved more than a year ago. At the plaintiffs' counsel's request, we agreed to participate in a mediation to determine whether there was a reasonable basis to resolve what remains of the suit following our successful voluntary reimbursement program with fans. The mediation regrettably was not successful, but we acted with good faith in the process. We are disappointed the plaintiffs' attorneys would resort to filing a baseless motion."

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

The city had told the Cowboys for weeks that the seat construction contractor, Seating Solutions, was behind schedule and had not provided adequate documentation in areas such as structural engineering. The league, which the Cowboys had notified 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.

About 3,200 fans were affected. Most were accommodated, but at least 400 didn't get seats at all.

The NFL has said it satisfied its obligations to the displaced fans by offering them the prices they paid for their tickets plus all documented travel, lodging and meal expenses. About 2,800 people who were delayed getting to their seats or were 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.

Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578

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