Su­per Bowl ticket suit sacked

Chicago Sun-Times (Sunday) - - NATION/WORLD - BY DAVID PORTER

Su­per Bowl tick­ets don’t fig­ure to get any eas­ier to come by — or any cheaper, prob­a­bly — af­ter a court rul­ing last week in a law­suit brought by a fan against the Na­tional Foot­ball League.

New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled Wed­nes­day that the NFL didn’t vi­o­late state con­sumer fraud laws with its tick­et­ing poli­cies for the 2014 Su­per Bowl at MetLife Sta­dium, a de­ci­sion that likely will spell de­feat for a fed­eral law­suit that seeks po­ten­tially mil­lions of dol­lars in dam­ages.

A New Jersey man brought the le­gal ac­tion in 2014, claim­ing he was forced to pay more than dou­ble the $800 face value for tick­ets on the sec­ondary mar­ket be­cause the NFL, fol­low­ing its es­tab­lished pol­icy, re­leased just 1 per­cent of tick­ets to the pub­lic through a lot­tery.

The rest of the tick­ets were with­held for teams, spon­sors and other in­sid­ers.

Seat­tle de­feated Den­ver 43-8 in the first Su­per Bowl held at a cold-weather lo­ca­tion.

“We are pleased by to­day’s rul­ing by the New Jersey Supreme Court, which unan­i­mously con­firmed that the NFL’s dis­tri­bu­tion of Su­per Bowl XLVIII tick­ets was in full com­pli­ance with ap­pli­ca­ble law,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email.

In a suit seek­ing class-ac­tion sta­tus for him­self and thou­sands of other fans, Josh Finkel­man claimed the tick­et­ing pol­icy vi­o­lated a New Jersey law — since re­pealed — that re­quired 95 per­cent of tick­ets to an event be made avail­able to the pub­lic. The law was one of the strictest in the coun­try at the time.

At­tor­neys for the NFL ar­gued that the lot­tery didn’t con­sti­tute a pub­lic sale, and thus didn’t trig­ger the con­sumer fraud law. They said it has been known for years — in­clud­ing by those in New Jersey who sought to at­tract the game — that the league doesn’t re­lease Su­per Bowl tick­ets to the pub­lic in the same way as mu­sic con­certs or even other sport­ing events do.

Finkel­man’s suit was dis­missed twice by a fed­eral judge in New Jersey, but in 2017 a fed­eral ap­peals court di­rected New Jersey’s Supreme Court to rule on the state law is­sue. Ar­gu­ments were held in Septem­ber.

The New Jersey court agreed with Finkel­man that the sale of tick­ets through the lot­tery con­sti­tuted a pub­lic sale, but ruled that the 95 per­cent re­quire­ment only ap­plied to those tick­ets.

“We do not con­sider the NFL’s dis­tri­bu­tion of other tick­ets to the 2014 Su­per Bowl to its teams, other se­lected in­di­vid­u­als, and en­ti­ties to con­sti­tute the un­law­ful withholding of more than five per­cent of ‘tick­ets to an event prior to the tick­ets’ re­lease for sale to the gen­eral pub­lic’” un­der the rel­e­vant state law, Jus­tice Anne Pat­ter­son wrote.

Tick­ets bought on the sec­ondary mar­ket were never meant to be part of a pub­lic sale, Pat­ter­son wrote. The NFL pro­hibits lot­tery win­ners from re­selling the tick­ets they pur­chase.

Bruce Nagel, an at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing Finkel­man, called the rul­ing “mind-bog­gling.”

“This opin­ion ba­si­cally con­tra­dicts the plain lan­guage of the statute,” he said.

The 3rd U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals, which or­dered the state Supreme Court re­view, is ex­pected to is­sue a rul­ing soon on the fate of the fed­eral law­suit.

TOM PENNINGTON/GETTY IM­AGES

Line­backer O’Brien Schofield cel­e­brates Seat­tle’s victory in Su­per Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Sta­dium in East Ruther­ford, N.J., Feb. 2, 2014.

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