By ERIC AASEN, Staff Writer
Call it fourth and long.
Super Bowl ticket holders who have sued the Dallas Cowboys and NFL for damages related to February’s seating fiasco in Arlington don’t have much of a case, say legal experts who aren’t associated with the matter.
That’s because the league has offered substantial refunds to those who were displaced due to more than 1,000 seats that weren’t ready by game time at Cowboys Stadium.
On Thursday, attorneys for the Cowboys and NFL filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which seeks damages that exceed $5 million.
“There’s nothing the plaintiffs want that the NFL hasn’t pretty much given them,” said Jeffrey Standen, professor of sports law at the Willamette University College of Law in Oregon. He also runs a blog called the Sports Law Professor.
About 1,250 temporary seats weren’t ready in time for kickoff, which left about 400 ticket holders standing.
The NFL has offered to give the standing fans at least $5,000 — and potentially more if their game-related expenses were higher.
The league had initially offered to pay those fans $2,400, three times the face value of the tickets, and give tickets to next year’s Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Then the league gave ticket holders an additional choice: A free ticket to any future Super Bowl plus round trip airfare and hotel.
Other fans were sent to alternate seats. In addition, some fans experienced delays in getting to their seats or had obstructed views of the football field.
Those who experienced delays or were relocated to other seats were offered the face value for their tickets or one free, transferable ticket to any future Super Bowl game.
“The law does not permit a plaintiff to continue suing when he has been provided more than he can legally recover,” states Thursday’s motion filed on behalf of the Cowboys and NFL.
Someone who buys a ticket to an event doesn’t have a guarantee of an “unobstructed view or perfect view,” said Amy Davis, an attorney with Rose Walker LLP in Dallas.
“What they’re buying is the right to enter the property and to view whatever event is supposed to take place,” she said.
“These ticket holders have a hard row to hoe,” Davis added. “The legal claims that have been asserted by the defendants [the Cowboys and NFL] are very likely to win the day.”
The NFL’s financial offer seems fair, said Michael McCann, director of the Sports Law Institute at Vermont Law School and editor and publisher of the Sports Law Blog.
“The Cowboys and NFL have tried to get ahead of the storm here and acknowledge it and try to remedy it,” he said. “They’ve portrayed themselves in a better light by acknowledging the mistakes. They’ve been responsive.”
Most can empathize with the displaced ticket holders, but that doesn’t translate to a legal victory, McCann said.
“The Super Bowl is a distinctive event and it would be very disappointing and aggravating to take that trip and not have a seat,” he said. “Annoyance doesn’t mean you’ve been legally harmed in a way that’s compensable.”
In an interview earlier this year, a lawyer representing the ticket holders accused the NFL and Cowboys of fraud, saying that they had known for perhaps a week before the Super Bowl that some temporary seats wouldn’t be ready by kickoff.
But fraud is difficult to prove, said Standen, the Willamette professor.
“Anyone can run to court and claim fraud … but at some point, the proof has to be brought forward to establish that claim,” he said. “The plaintiffs have a long road ahead to try to establish a fraud claim.”