A federal court has denied class certification in a suit involving a last-minute seat shortage at the 2011 Super Bowl between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The suit stemmed from a decision mere hours before the big game, held at Cowboys Stadium, that over 1,000 temporary seats were unsafe and couldn’t be used.
The suit, filed within a week of the February 6, 2011 game, alleged breach of contract, fraud, and deceptive sales practices. The action, which sought compensatory damages exceeding $5 million, named as defendants the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys, and team owner Jerry Jones.
According to the suit, the defendants’ unlawful actions meant that around 850 fans were displaced from their original seats, and 400 had to stand through the hours-long game. This was especially disappointing given the time and money that fans had spent in order to attend the game.
Judge: Too many individual issues
U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, ruled that the plaintiffs hadn’t sufficiently shown that there were common issues making a class action preferable to individual suits. Lynn also noted that monetary damages varied among the class members, making a joint action inappropriate.
"The Court … concludes that the variation in the materiality of the omissions combined with the individual questions of reliance and damages predominate over common issues," Lynn wrote in her opinion.
"[T]he burdens and costs associated with proceeding as a class action outweigh potential benefits,” Lynn’s ruling said.
In a statement, the NFL said it was “pleased with the court’s decision refusing to certify any class in this case.”
Plaintiffs’ lawyer vows to fight on
Michael Avenatti, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he was “disappointed with the court's ruling but look forward to representing hundreds of our clients this year in the trials against the NFL,” indicating that he may file individual suits on behalf of his clients.
Avenatti has been fierce in his prosecution of the case since the start, demanding that the defendants “reimburse fans one hundred percent for their expenses and damages” at the time the case was filed.
“You don’t have to own the Cowboys or run the NFL to know that you cannot lawfully treat people like this,” Avenatti said at the time. “At an absolute minimum, Jones, the Cowboys and the NFL need to accept full responsibility and reimburse fans one hundred percent for their expenses and damages. Anything short of that is a slap in the face to the fans of the NFL and the Cowboys.”