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NFL's ticket lawsuit headaches may just be beginning

There are some advantages to not having a professional football team in town. For example, Hartford does not have to worry about hosting the Super Bowl. Local football fans can drive to any one of a number of East Coast venues, enjoy the game, shout themselves hoarse, and come back home to a city that has not been ravaged by tailgate parties and over-enthusiastic celebrants.

The National Football League may be wondering if the 2011 Super Bowl game was worth the trouble. Litigation concerning a seating screw-up has been moving ahead slowly in federal court, and the league now finds itself the target of more than 1,000 individual lawsuits instead of one big one.

The court has denied the plaintiffs' request for a class action, and plaintiffs' attorneys are saying that they will continue to press their claims one by one. Potentially, that means 1,250 lawsuits.

The plaintiffs were attendees whose tickets assigned them to seats that, mere hours before the game, authorities determined to be unsafe. About two-thirds of these fans were moved to different seats, some of which had obstructed views. The rest of the group watched the game from standing-room areas.

They sued both the NFL and the host team for damages and applied to be certified as a class action. The court dismissed the team early on, ruling that the tickets were contracts between the NFL and the attendees. Now, the idea of a class action is dead.

The judge said that the common issues did not sufficiently outweigh the individual concerns. For instance, she said, there was no uniform formula that the court could apply to determine damages, because each original and reassigned seat was different, and each attendee incurred different expenses for the event. Each case will have to be decided on its own merits.

So the league could be defending these cases for years to come -- until, even, Hartford has its own franchise and its own state-of-the-art stadium.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Class Status Denied in Cowboy Stadium Super Bowl Seating Lawsuit," July 11, 2013

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