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Shannon P. Duffy of the Legal Intelligencer reports that oral argument questions by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit suggests a possible reversal of a lower court’s dismissal of a class action based on the New England Patriots’ 2007 Tapegate scandal.   A New York Jets season ticket holder claims that the Patriots’ alleged act of secretly taping Jets’ defensive signals amounted to a fraud that deprived him of his expectation of seeing games decided by fair play.   According to Duffy:

In an oral argument that lasted more than an hour on Wednesday, all three judges expressed some skepticism of the plaintiffs’ claims during the first half. One judge wondered if the court would be encouraging fans to file lawsuits every time they disagreed with a referee’s decision.

But the judges were much more aggressive when questioning the lawyers for the NFL and the Patriots.

Cowen especially seemed swayed by the plaintiffs’ arguments, telling the defense lawyers that he considered the games to be rigged when the Patriots “knew every signal and [were] able to foretell every play that was going to be called.”

But Goldfein insisted that, unlike an illegally fixed game, the outcomes of the Patriots’ games were not certain, and that fans “got what they paid for.”

Sour grapes, I know, but if the Third Circuit reverses this case, I’ll be first in line to serve as class representative for a class of Seattle Seahawks season ticket holders who feel that they were cheated out of the 2005-06 season due to one-sided officiating in Super Bowl XL.

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Here is a quick update to a class-action-related story that you may have been following over the past few months. (See CABWR entries dated September 9 and October 15).  According to an AP article published in the San Fransisco Chronicle and various other sources, a federal jury in San Fransisco has rendered a verdict in favor of a class of retired NFL players in their suit against the NFL Players’ Association for a share of licensing revenue. The verdict was reportedly for $7.1 million in compensatory damages, plus $21 million in punitive damages. 

The verdict brings an end to the trial, a fairly rare proceeding in a class action.  Most class actions end with a settlement, dismissal, or denial of class certification before they get to an actual jury trial.  The NFLPA’s attorney says that it plans to ask the judge for post-trial relief and that it will appeal the verdict if necessary, so any of these outcomes are still possible, but for now, the class has prevailed.  The news stories published so far have not commented on how the verdict is to be divided up among the more than 2000 class members, but unless the verdict is overturned on appeal or a settlement is reached, the court will have to come up with some method of allocation and a plan for distribution.

Justia.com has a copy of the court docket for the case, along with links to the pleadings, motions, orders, and other court documents.

For more news on the verdict, see these links:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601079&sid=aZwHxJfSIMAI&refer=home

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/sports_blog/2008/11/the-nfl-players.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/11/sports/football/11nfl.html?ref=football

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I couldn’t resist commenting on this tidbit of class action-related news today.  A New Jersey federal judge has granted a motion for extention of time to amend the complaint and make service of process in a would-be class action filed by a disgruntled New York Jets fan against the New England Patriots and their coach, Bill Belichick arising out of the well-publicized “Spygate” scandal.  The original complaint reportedly sought certification of a class of Jets season tickets holders and alleges that the acts of the Patriots and their coach in secretly videotaping opponents’ signals, which cost the Patriots a first round draft pick and drew calls for a Congressional investigation by Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector, violated the “contractual expectations and rights” of plaintiff and the would-be class “to observe an honest match played in compliance with all laws and regulations.”  See the full article below.

http://www.miamiherald.com/858/story/584669.html

I’m not prepared to comment about the likelihood of class certification or success on the merits of this case if the defendants ever get served, but I will say that as a life long Seattle Seahawks fan and season ticket holder, I’ll be watching this case intently as a test case for a possible class action against the officiating crew from Super Bowl XL for violating my rights “to observe an honest match played in compliance with all laws and regulations.” 

If you’re a Seahawks fan too, you’ll know what I’m talking about. 

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