According to WFAA-TV in Dallas, several season-ticket holders filed a lawsuit against the National Football League, the Dallas Cowboys and team owner Jerry Jones because they didn’t get the prime Super Bowl XLV seats they were promised.
Mike Dolabi is suing on behalf of himself and other football fans. He claims he paid at least $100,000 for seat licenses at Cowboys Stadium and claims he received a promise of prime seats at the Super Bowl with the best sightlines in the stadium that would be ready by game day.
On game day, Dolabi and other season-ticket holders found themselves sitting on temporary metal foldout chairs after Arlington Fire Chief Don Crowson condemned 3,200 seats just hours before the game. Steve Parks, another fan and ticket holder displaced when his section abruptly closed said, “They were trying to break this meaningless record of having the largest attendance Super Bowl.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized to fans impacted by seating issues, while the NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman said this was a “shared failure.”
In an effort to set an attendance record, Jones and stadium organizers added 15,000 temporary seats and sold more tickets than the number of seats available. According to news reports, the stadium’s contractor, Seating Solutions of New York, bailed out on the job hours before the the game without giving an official reason, leaving thousands of seats unfinished.
Fire officials were forced to close down some seating areas because they were unsafe. Among other concerns, fire officials noted blocked exits, improper engineering seals, structural integrity and lack of guard rails. Stairs without guard rails pose a serious risk to game goers and increase the risk of falls and injuries. The 400 ticket holders who were forced to sit in temporary foldout chair seating are known as the “Founders,” the fans who helped finance the $1.2 billion stadium. They contributed more than $100 million in personal seat licenses.
Dolabi and others affected each paid at least $100,000 for their promised premium seats. Other ticket holders did not even make it into the stadium, as their seating sections closed and fire officials forced them to watch the game on monitors.
“It would be like a corporation selling you swampland and later claiming they were wanting to get it drained before you saw it,” said Richard A. Dodd, a senior partner with Cappolino Dodd Krebs LLP, a law firm in Central Texas. “The N.F.L. will have highly paid lawyers using defenses which they will claim are clear on the ticket itself. As the ‘swampland purchaser,’ you will need representation to be on a level playing field.”
The lawsuit accuses the National Football League, the Cowboys and Jones of breach of contract, fraud, breach of good faith and violating Texas’ deceptive trade practices law. The plaintiffs seek more than $5 million in actual damages, which could triple under the state’s trade law, and unspecified damages. Jones and the Cowboys did not reach a record attendance goal. Attendance felt about 800 short of the record set in Houston in 2004 during Super Bowl XXXVIII.