NEW ORLEANS (Legal Newsline) - The penalty call not heard ’round the world – one that many believe would have sent the New Orleans Saints to the Super Bowl instead of the L.A. Rams – is being resurrected in a lawsuit filed against the National Football League (NFL) on behalf of everyone who bought a ticket to the infamous NFC championship game in January.
Daniel and Barbara Ryan, individually and on behalf of all ticket holders, filed a class action lawsuit Feb. 27 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana against the NFL; NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; game officials William Vinovich III, Patrick Turner and Gary Cavaletto; and NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Alberto Riveron.
All are accused of violating a contractual obligation to provide spectators with a fairly played game because they allowed the Rams to commit a violation – a helmet-to-helmet hit on Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis – with no penalty, thus tipping the scales for the Rams.
That the violation occurred is not in dispute, and the NFL fined the Rams defender after the fact. The lawsuit outlines a plausible scenario that has the Saints possibly winning the championship had it been refereed properly. Ultimately, they lost in overtime.
Nothing happened during the game, however, and the Ryans claim, according to their filing, “The defendants’ failure to appropriately and publicly acknowledge, investigate and take appropriate action per their own league rules concerning the intentional non-calls was a violation of fan trust and the very integrity of the game.”
They say spectators had a “justifiable reliance on the representations made by the NFL through their executive and owners as evidenced by the NFL’s own words” that they would be watching a fairly played and scored championship, the NFL breached its obligation to paying fans.
Tickets for the game were $700, and the Ryans want their money back, along with everyone else’s.
Clé Simon of Simon Law Offices in Lafayette, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, estimates that ticket sales alone for the game were in the realm of $17 million, “pocket change for the NFL” but a significant sum for spectators.
In addition, the filing states, many people traveled distances to the game and spent considerably on transportation, food and lodging,plus whatever they spent on concessions.
These extra spenders, Simon explained, would likely be in a separate category within the class, which consists of everyone who held a ticket, with a higher level of compensation should the suit be successful.
Because of the law in Louisiana, he said, the plaintiffs cannot ask for a specific figure –that is left up to the court, as is the amount to be paid to the attorneys who represent the class.
In addition to Simon, the plaintiffs are represented by Kevin R. Duck of Duck Law Firm LLC, also of Lafayette.
A previous action regarding the game which sought to force the NFL to arrange a rematch was dismissed in January after a federal judge determined the plaintiffs had no standing to demand an action by the NFL.