$5 Million Dollar Class Action Lawsuit Against NFL and Pro Football Hall of Fame

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Sep 13, 2016

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Football Four people filed a class-action lawsuit seeking more than $5 million in damages from the NFL and the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the cancellation of the Hall of Fame game on Sunday, August 7, 2016.

The four named plaintiffs are filing the suit on behalf of two groups of people: those who had paid for or received tickets to the 2016 NFL Hall of Fame Game and those who paid for or received tickets to the game, but did not actually receive seats. The lawsuit was filed against the National Football League (NFL) and the National Football Museum, Inc. (the Hall of Fame).

The Cancelled Hall of Fame Game

According to the lawsuit, the NFL has a history of mismanaging stadiums and scheduling games on unsafe playing surfaces. On August 7, 2016, the plaintiffs claim that the defendants prepared for the Hall of Fame game too late, by applying paint for the midfield logo and end zone lettering just hours before the game. When the paint was not drying quickly enough, the grounds crew heated the field to try to speed up the process. The heat melted the field, “creating large slick, sticky, and congealed areas within the playing surface.” The grounds crew tried fix the problem with a substance, until an employee noticed that there was a label on the substance warning of burns upon skin contact.

The lawsuit claims that the Colts and the Packers were told that the game had been cancelled at 6:40 p.m., but that the defendants failed to notify fans and allowed them to continue to purchase food, beverages, and souvenirs while they waited for a game that would never start. 

The suit claims that plaintiffs have suffered significant damages, including out-of-pocket cost of tickets to attend the game, lodging and travel expenses, items purchased on the day of the game, and missed days of work for fans who took vacation time to attend the game. 

The lawsuit alleges breach of contract, asserting that the defendants breached their obligations by cancelling the game due to factors under their control. Plaintiffs note that NFL Officials admitted responsibility when Executive Vice President Troy Vincent sent a memo to the NFL teams stating, “While the HOF field situation underscored the challenges in working with third parties, ultimately I am accountable for ensuring the field is of the highest standard.”

The attorney for the plaintiffs, Michael Avenatti, has stated that the defendants’ plan to only refund ticket prices was too little. “They could have offered what these fans paid for the tickets and to reimburse them for any expenses incurred… The league has a history of being cheap with its fans.” Avenatti represented ticket holders who ended up without seats to the 2011 Super Bowl and were instead placed in temporary seating with obstructed views. Most plaintiffs in that suit collected damages and were offered replacement tickets for a future Super Bowl.

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