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Fans sue NFL, Cowboys over Super Bowl ticket snafu


The NFL logo appears on an entrance door to the football stadium at Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona February 2, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The NFL logo appears on an entrance door to the football stadium at Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona February 2, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) - Angry football fans have sued the National Football League and the Dallas Cowboys, saying they were denied seats to Sunday's Super Bowl despite having paid thousands of dollars for tickets.

The lawsuit was filed after the league admitted to mistakes that left about 400 paying fans unable to watch Super Bowl XLV in person -- or able to see the field only on TV screens -- and other Cowboys' season ticket-holders watching from temporary metal chairs with obstructed views.

Fans filed the lawsuit late Tuesday in federal court in Dallas, accusing the league and team with breach of contract, fraud and deceptive trade practices.

They are seeking class-action status, more than $5 million of damages and unspecified punitive damages.

The NFL and the Cowboys declined to comment on the lawsuit. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is also a defendant in the case.

In Sunday's Super Bowl game, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 before more than 103,000 people at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The league Tuesday had invited the 400 affected fans who paid for tickets but did not get a seat at the game to a future Super Bowl of their choice.

It also offered the choice of a cash payment of $2,400 -- three times the face value of the ticket -- or round-trip airfare and a hotel. Many shut-out fans paid above face value for the tickets, according to the lawsuit.

"We are ultimately responsible for the fan experience and we want it to be the best it can possibly be," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement Tuesday.

The lawsuit contended that the NFL knew of seating problems before the game, but failed to tell fans in advance.

It also accused Jones of causing the problems with the hope of setting a Super Bowl attendance record. He fell short by 766, after some temporary seats were deemed unusable.

Many affected fans ended up watching the game in standing-only positions or places in a club area behind the Steelers bench where they could watch the game on TV monitors.

The lawsuit, filed by law firm Eagan Avenatti LLP, also accused Jones of deceiving Cowboys season ticket-holders known as "Founders" into paying $1,200 a seat for Super Bowl tickets, only to be offered temporary metal fold-out chairs, many with obstructed views of the field and the stadium's giant overhead video board.

These Founders, who paid more than $100 million for seat licenses to help fund construction of Cowboys Stadium, said the team had promised that their $100,000-and-higher licenses would entitle them to the "best sightlines" and the right to buy a Super Bowl ticket at face value, according to the lawsuit.

"Frankly, it is astounding to us that the Cowboys and the NFL would treat its fans like this," lead attorney Michael Avenatti said in a telephone interview. "What is perhaps even more amazing is that they still haven't done the right thing."

The NFL needs to fully compensate the distressed fans for their out-of-pocket expenses, he added.

The case is Simms et al v. Jones et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, No. 11-00248.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit, additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)

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