HARRISBURG – The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania announced Feb. 8 that it has declined to hear a case brought by Super Bowl XLV ticketholders, who claim they were illegally denied seats they purchased for that football game by both the National Football League (NFL) and the Dallas Cowboys football team.
Plaintiffs Richard Pollock, Cheryl Pollock, Paul Kutcher and Cynthia Kutcher, all of Brandon, Fla., sued the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys in March 2013, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The initial suit provided tort claims for breach of contract and violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL), though the former claim was later dropped in an amended complaint.
“Plaintiffs are four ticketholders for Super Bowl XLV held in Arlington, Texas, on Feb. 6, 2011. Plaintiffs were among the group of ticketholders who were unable to watch the game from the seats designated on their tickets because these were temporary seats not approved by safety authorities in time for use at the game. No adequate seats were offered to plaintiffs," the trial court summzrized.
"This lawsuit arises out of plaintiffs’ being denied access to the seats designated on the tickets and defendants’ failure to advise plaintiffs when they purchased the tickets that they would be receiving temporary seats that did not yet exist, and that there was no guarantee that an occupancy permit would be issued by the City of Arlington for these seats prior to the game."
On recommendation and petition from the defendants, the plaintiffs’ claims in their entirety were later barred. The District Court agreed.
“Defendants also moved for dismissal of the entire action because of plaintiffs’ failure to satisfy the amount in controversy requirement, and the District Court ruled that the action must be dismissed for want of jurisdiction given the lack of viable claims to support awards for punitive damages, attorney fees, and triple damages,” according to Court records.
The case would later be transferred and pursued in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas in March 2014, with no subsequent activity until a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint was filed in April 2016.
Per the plaintiffs, they sought their second amended complaint to contain claims for fraudulent or negligent inducement, violation of the UTPCPL, and breach of contract. In response, the NFL opposed the motion, claiming that the tort claims were barred by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, and that the breach of contract claim was barred by the four-year statute of limitations, which expired in February 2015.
The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas denied the plaintiffs’ motion by memorandum and order on Sept. 27, 2016, after which the plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
The Superior Court’s opinion was written by Judge Eugene B. Strassburger III, on June 21, 2017.
“It is abundantly clear that plaintiffs fully litigated their tort claims in federal court and lost, not because the federal court determined that it lacked jurisdiction over the tort claims, but because those claims were not viable on their merits,” Strassburger said.
Strassburger added it was “disingenuous” on the part of the plaintiffs to attempt to introduce breach of contract claims into the litigation, after repeatedly denying the existence of a contractual relationship between the parties in their initial court filings.
“What this Court finds disingenuous is plaintiffs’ arguing that the NFL should have expected to defend a claim for breach of contract after plaintiffs represented over and over again, in at least ten different filings in the federal district and appellate courts, that there was no contractual relationship between plaintiffs and the NFL, that the operative complaint stated no allegations of a contract, and that it would be impossible for plaintiffs to state any contract claim,” Strassburger said.
“Plaintiffs had ample opportunity to seek recovery from the NFL for its failure to deliver the seats it agreed to provide to plaintiffs. They chose and persisted in pursuing an unviable path for recovery, and ultimately waited too long to follow the proper one. Upon this record, we conclude that the trial court acted within its discretion in denying plaintiffs’ leave to amend their complaint to state a breach of contract claim,” Strassburger concluded.
This led to the appeal to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, recently denied.
The plaintiffs are represented by Chelsea Dice of Bruce E. Dice & Associates, in Pittsburgh.
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania case 288 WAL 2017
Superior Court of Pennsylvania case 1611 WDA 2016
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas case GD-14-004867
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org