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DALLAS - A class action lawsuit was filed Feb. 8 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division alleging breach of contract, fraud and deceptive sales practices by Jerry Jones, the National Football League, the Dallas Cowboys Football Club and related defendants in connection with Super Bowl XLV held Sunday in Arlington, Texas (Steve Simms, et al. v. Jerral "Jerry" Jones, et al., No. 3:11-cv-00248-M, N.D. Texas, Dallas Div.).
"In many instances, putative class members paid thousands of dollars to be seated at the Super Bowl and traveled to Cowboys Stadium from around the country, and in some cases the world, in order to witness the Green Bay Packers play the Pittsburgh Steelers at Super Bowl XLV," says the complaint, filed by the consumer rights firm Eagan Avenatti LLP. "Unfortunately, not all of the ticket holders to Super Bowl XLV got what they bargained for or what was promised to them."
The complaint, which seeks compensatory damages of more than $5 million, claims that unlawful acts of Jones, the NFL and the Cowboys resulted in approximately 400 fans who purchased tickets and traveled to the game being denied a seat as a result of the incomplete installation of temporary bleachers that were deemed unsafe and unusable.
"On Monday, February 7, 2011, Defendants openly conceded that they knew of the seating dilemma earlier in the week and had hoped until hours before kickoff that they could be fixed but failed and refused to advise the ticket holders of the issue until they reached the stadium," the complaint says. "Accordingly, these approximate 400 ticket holders were denied seats to the game altogether."
Those ticketholders were later invited to watch the game on monitors in a bar tucked inside Cowboys Stadium behind the Steelers bench with no view of the field or in standing room only sections in the corners of the stadium.
The complaint also alleges that Jones and the Cowboys deceived Cowboys season ticket holders known as the "Founders" into paying $1,200 a seat for Super Bowl tickets that turned out to be temporary seats with obstructed views.
"[M]ost of the 'Founders' fans, including but not limited to Plaintiff [Mike] Dolabi, arrived at the stadium on Sunday to discover that Jones and the Cowboys had assigned them to seats with obstructed views and temporary metal fold out chairs, which had been installed in an effort to meet Jones' goal of breaking the attendance record," the complaint says. "In addition, almost all of these seats lacked any reasonable view of the stadium's prized 'video board,' which Defendant Jones and the Cowboys routinely claim is the one of the most unique and best features of Cowboys Stadium."
Despite efforts to boost attendance, Sunday's attendance of 103,210 fell 766 short of the all-time record, according to the complaint.
The complaint says the "Founders," who collectively account for more than $100 million in personal seat licenses sold to help fund construction of the stadium, each paid at least $100,000 per seat for their seat license, which the Cowboys and Jones promised would entitle them to the "best sightlines in the stadium" and the right to purchase a ticket to Sunday's Super Bowl at face value.
"Defendant Jones and the Cowboys were fully aware well before February 6, 2011 that the Founders had been assigned to temporary, obstructed view seats and yet concealed it from the Founders," the complaint says. "Indeed, in written correspondence with the Founders relating to seat assignments for the Super Bowl, the Cowboys curiously made no mention of the fact that many of the Founders, if not all of them, would be assigned to temporary, obstructed view seats."
The complaint says Jones admitted, and apologized for, the temporary seating error and that NFL Commission Roger Goodell said "It was obviously a failure on our behalf, and we have to take responsibility for that." It says NFL Executive Vice President Eric
Grubman admitted that the NFL knew well before the game that the seats were not going to be available, stating that he "felt in the middle of the week that it was going to be a problem."
The 400 fans denied admission have been offered triple the face value of their $800 tickets and a free ticket to next year's Super Bowl.
"However, this monetary sum is wholly insufficient to compensate Plaintiffs for all of their expenses, including but not limited to travel costs, or for their disappointment and frustration in not being able to properly enjoy the Super Bowl," the complaint says. "Moreover, triple the face value does not in many cases begin to approach the cost of the tickets paid by many class members.
"In addition, due to a looming labor dispute between the NFL and its players, the NFL cannot presently guarantee that next year's Super Bowl will even be played, let alone which teams will participate."
The complaint lists claims for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, fraud, deceit and concealment and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
The plaintiffs are represented by Michael J. Avenatti, founding partner of Eagan Avenatti LLP, and Lisa A. Wegner of Eagan Avenatti in Newport Beach, Calif., and Christopher S. Ayres and R. Jack Ayres Jr. of the Law Offices of R. Jack Ayres Jr. in Addison, Texas.
Click here to download the complaint.