NFL commissioner will be deposed in Super Bowl seating lawsuit

Posted Monday, Jul. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The plaintiffs in the Super Bowl XLV seating lawsuit recently won a minor victory when a federal judge ruled that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will have to sit down for depositions in the case.

The NFL sought to quash any attempt by the plaintiffs to question Goodell about the problems with the troubled temporary seating that was installed for the Feb. 6, 2011, game at Cowboys Stadium, now AT&T Stadium, in Arlington.

U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn on Wednesday agreed with an earlier ruling by a federal magistrate that Goodell has firsthand, relevant information regarding the events at the game and should make himself available for questioning.

The NFL had argued that there were other NFL employees with more complete knowledge of what had happened and that the plaintiff’s attorneys wanted to harass Goodell with questions outside the realm of the lawsuit, such as the cost of his hotel room and transportation.

Testimony limits

The affected Super Bowl XLV ticket holders are accusing the NFL of breaching its contract with ticket holders after it expanded the stadium’s normal 80,000 seating capacity by installing 13,000 temporary bleacher-style seats only to have 1,250 be declared unsafe by Arlington fire officials.

Fans were also delayed getting into the stadium because of the problems with the seating. Eventually about 3,200 fans were affected. While most were accommodated, more than 400 fans did not get seats.

The order issued by Magistrate Renee Toliver on July 10 allowing Goodell to give testimony limits what the commissioner can be asked. The judge said he can be queried on his statements about the temporary seating, the video replay board and the league’s attempt to break the NFL Super Bowl attendance record, among other things.

Individual lawsuits

Earlier in the month, Lynn denied a class-action status by fans suing the NFL. She wrote that fans who did not participate in the NFL’s voluntary settlement would have to sue individually if they were denied seats, relocated to other seats or delayed entry into the game. Their attorney said he would move on with the individual lawsuits.

After the class-action ruling, the NFL filed for a summary judgment against the plaintiffs saying that the league did not promise unobstructed views of the videoboard or playing field when they purchased the tickets. The judge has not ruled on the NFL’s motion.

The Dallas Cowboys, who had previously been dismissed from the lawsuit, also are seeking to be reimbursed $196,584.44 by the plaintiffs and their attorneys for their legal fees and the costs of providing documents for the case.

The Cowboys contend that they have reviewed over 23 gigabytes of information — or about 200,000 emails and attachments — and have provided more than 85,000 pages of documents.

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 434 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.

Max B. Baker,


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