The seating fiasco that jilted hundreds of fans who purchased expensive tickets for Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium four years ago is now being heard by a Dallas federal court jury.
It was the result of “ego, greed and gross incompetence,” plaintiff’s attorney Michael Avenatti said in opening statements Monday.
Avenatti said Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wanted to break the 31-year-old Super Bowl attendance record of 103,985 with temporary seats that were added to the stadium for the Feb. 6, 2011, game.
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Avenatti quoted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, saying days before the game, "We know that we are going to have a great weekend,” even though the attorney claimed the NFL knew hundreds of the temporary seats would not be ready. He said the NFL instead forged ahead under pressure from Jones.
The jury saw an internal NFL e-mail that said, "Let's deal with push back when it comes."
Avenatti said he would ask the jury to find fraud and breach of contract and award damages.
NFL attorney Thad Behrens denied the league intentionally misled fans. He said the Super Bowl is the league’s premier event and officials would never dream of knowingly inviting fans for a miserable experience.
“It simply did not happen,” Behrens said about the plaintiff’s alleged scenario.
“The NFL's worst nightmare occurred,” Behrens said. “The NFL accepts full responsibility.”
Hundreds of fans received compensation, including cash and other tickets.
However, Behrens said the handful of fans from across the country pursuing this lawsuit have demanded excessive compensation far beyond their losses. Behrens asked the jury to be fair.
Behrens said 450 ticketed fans at the game were left with no seats and 850 others were given other seats to see the game at the stadium.
A request to make the case a class action for all unhappy fans was rejected by U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn.
Class action requires a commonality amongst all potential members of the class, according to Dallas attorney Chad Ruback, who is not connected with case.
“Some plaintiffs are claiming, well they got seats in the game but their seats were blocked by a pillar. Others are claiming they bought 50-yard-line seats but got end zone seats. Those plaintiffs might not be common enough,” he said.
The trial is expected to last two weeks and regardless of how it goes, Ruback expects the loser to appeal.
“Both sides of this case feel very strongly about their positions. Neither one has taken it this far just to give up,” Ruback said.