Texas jury awards fans $76,000 for Super Bowl seating problem

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 12, 2015 1:47 PM

By Marice Richter

DALLAS (Reuters) - A federal jury on Thursday awarded about $76,000 to seven fans who sued the National Football League over a seating fiasco at the 2011 Super Bowl where hundreds of fans had problems with their ticketed spots.

The jury ruled in favor of the fans "argument that the NFL breached its ticket contract with them because the NFL failed to have temporary seats ready in time in the Dallas Cowboys stadium, leaving them with no seats or seats with obstructed views," court documents said.

The jury sided with the fans on almost all points but rejected two claims of fraud. Jury awards to the fans ranged from about $5,700 to $22,000.

"This is nothing short of a blowout," said Michael Avenatti, an attorney for the fans. "Any attempt by the NFL to claim victory in this case is like putting lipstick on a pig."

NFL attorney Thad Behrens told reporters that his clients were pleased the jury "affirmed that the NFL did not defraud any of its fans."

The jury's verdict may not be final because Avenatti asked for the seating contractor to be re-deposed after a media report on Wednesday in which the contractor alleged the NFL influenced his testimony.

NFL officials and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones testified during the two-week trial and expressed regret over the seating problems that sidelined 1,250 of 13,000 temporary seats for safety reasons such as missing guardrails.

Fans who had tickets for those seats claimed they were relocated to less desirable seats with obstructed views or were forced to stand throughout the game where the Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL officials took responsibility for the seating problems but fans rejected settlement offers of reimbursements and tickets to subsequent Super Bowls as insufficient.

Email correspondence and testimony from top NFL executives described growing unease about the temporary seating and pressure from Jones to break attendance records at the first Super Bowl game in the massive stadium in the Dallas suburb of Arlington.

Even though Jones announced at a news conference before the game that the Super Bowl attendance record would be broken, it was not.

(Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Lisa Lambert)