A group of Super Bowl XLV ticketholders recently lost their bid in federal court in Texas for class certification of their lawsuit arising from problems with temporary seating at the event. Judge Barbara Lynn of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas held that a class action would not be a proper vehicle to adjudicate the plaintiffs’ claims that they were denied access, delayed in reaching their purchased seat, relocated to a less-desirable seat, or unwittingly purchased an obstructed view ticket.

In 2011, Cowboys Stadium, a new 80,000-seat venue with a 60-yard video replay board, hosted the Super Bowl. To increase capacity, a vendor was hired to install 13,000 to 15,000 temporary seats. But problems with installation and inspection of those seats caused some fans to be delayed or denied entry altogether. Plaintiffs brought putative class claims on behalf of ticketholders for breach of contract and fraud against the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys and related entities.

Plaintiffs moved to certify four classes of ticketholders:

  • Those who paid for and/or acquired tickets to Super Bowl XLV and were denied seats to the game (the Denied Class)
  • Those who were delayed in gaining access to their seats due to installation delays (the Delayed Class)
  • Those who were relocated from their assigned seat to a “lesser quality” seat (the Relocation Class)
  • Those who were seated, but with an obstructed view of the field or the video replay board (the Obstructed View Class)

In a 39-page opinion, Judge Lynn denied certification of all four putative classes, based principally on her conclusion that individualized issues predominated over any common ones regarding each class’ claims. For example, the court determined that claimed damages for the Denied Class would vary with individual traveling expenses, and therefore could not be determined on a class-wide basis. The court also found that each member of the Delayed Class experienced different waiting times and conditions after they were admitted to the venue, presenting individualized questions on the issues of breach and damages.

In addition, Judge Lynn held that the Relocation Class could not rely on common evidence because eligibility for the class required individual determinations of whether ticketholders’ new seats were of “lesser quality,” and because alleged damages would require an individualized calculation based on the new seat location. Similarly, the court concluded that individualized issues predominated in the Obstructed View Class because the extent of plaintiffs’ obstructed views varied, which rendered the damages and reliance elements of the claims inappropriate for class certification.

Attorneys in Ballard Spahr’s Sports Industry Practice assist clients in managing risk and defending claims arising from ticketing disputes, free speech activities, and other sports-related disputes. For more information, please contact Joel E. Tasca at 215.864.8188 or tasca@ballardspahr.com, or the Ballard Spahr attorney with whom you work. 

Copyright © 2013 by Ballard Spahr LLP.
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