ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fan Sues NFL and Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns fan Ken Lanci has brought suit against the Cleveland Browns for allegedly violating his contractual right to buy tickets under his personal seat license due to the current NFL lockout, about which we have previously posted.  You can find a copy of Mr. Lanci's complaint here.  According to Wikipedia, a personal seat license:

gives the holder the right to buy season tickets for a certain seat in a stadium. This holder can sell the seat license to someone else if they no longer wish to purchase season tickets. However, if the seat license holder chooses not to sell the seat licenses and does not renew the season tickets, the holder forfeits the license back to the team. Most seat licenses are valid for as long as the team plays in the current venue.

Cleveland_Browns_helmet According to this story in the Miami Herald the suit is seeking $25,000 in damages from the Browns on theories of breach of contract and bad faith.  Lanci has named the NFL and its other teams in the suit as well, alleging tortious nterference with his personal seat license. He is seeking over $25,000 in damages plus additional unspecified damages.  Lanci claims that the violation stemmed from the conspiracy of the NFL to lock out the players which violated his personal seat license. In response to this claim, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the Herald that he understands that the fans are frustrated and that the league has refund policies in place for fans in the event that games are lost.  

Mr Lanci characterizes the lockout as a product of a dispute between millionaires and billionaires and notes that people have no sympathy for multi-millionaires.  Given that Mr. Lanci is himself a multi-millionaire, this would seem to be a case that only a lawyer could love.  The website, Cleveland Frowns, provides a critical commentary on the suit here, noting among other things, that Mr. Lanci's personal suit license agreement specifically contemplates the possibility of a lockout.  Here's the relevant language:

STRIKES, DAMAGES, DESTRUCTION, ETC.  In the event of: (a) any strike or other labor disturbance which results in the cancellation of any Browns Games at the Stadium, … the License/Ticket Fee payable under the Agreement shall … be abated during the period of time that the Club Seats are unusable. Any such abatement of the License/Ticket Fee shall be computed for each NFL Season by dividing the number of Browns Games for which the Club Seats were unusable by the total number of Browns Games that would have been played in the Stadium during the applicable NFL Season were it not for such strike, labor disturbance, damage or destruction.”

If games are lost it is possible that the NFL could find itself in breach of their other contractual obligations with entities such as sponsors, and television stations that broadcast league games. Stay tuned.

[Jared Vasiliauskas & JT]

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