Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Entertainment & Sports Law
In Re: NFL Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation
The Settlement Agreement between the NFL and eligible retired NFL players arose out of a class action based on findings that professional football players are at a significantly increased risk for serious brain injury. The Agreement is intended to provide monetary awards to former players who receive a qualifying diagnosis after following a specified protocol. The Agreement’s claims administrator and the district court created and adopted a set of clarifying, revised rules relating to how players can obtain a qualifying diagnosis.Several retired NFL players or their estates challenged those revised rules, arguing that they amended the Agreement, and alternatively, that the court abused its discretion by adopting the four revised rules. The Third Circuit upheld the rules, noting that the Agreement provided for the court’s continuing jurisdiction and specifies the duties of the claims administrator. The revised rules are permissible clarifications created for the Agreement’s successful administration—for example, to prevent fraud—and were not amendments. They were created, in part, because the claims administrator reviewed many claim submissions and noted that there were certain “clients of a law firm traveling thousands of miles to see the same physician rather than those available to them in their hometowns and excessively high numbers and rates of payable diagnoses from those doctors.” View "In Re: NFL Players' Concussion Injury Litigation" on Justia Law
Alessi v. Mayweather
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of class actions in MDL brought by plaintiffs against boxers and promoters, alleging that defendants concealed a pre-existing injury to boxer Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao, and that plaintiffs would not have purchased tickets to watch the fight had they known of the injury.The panel held that spectators who were disappointed in a sporting event did not suffer a legal cognizable injury. The panel also held that plaintiffs essentially got what they paid for -- a full-length regulation fight between two boxing legends. In this case, Pacquiao’s shoulder condition did not prevent him from going the full twelve rounds, the maximum number permitted for professional boxing contests. View "Alessi v. Mayweather" on Justia Law
Senne v. Kansas City Royals Baseball
Current and former minor league baseball players brought claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the wage-and-hour laws of California, Arizona, and Florida against MLB defendants, alleging that defendants did not pay the players at all during spring training, extended spring training, or the instructional leagues. On appeal, the players challenged the district court's denial of class certification for the Arizona, Florida, and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) classes, and defendants petitioned to appeal the certification of the California class.The Ninth Circuit held that the district court did not err in holding, under Sullivan v. Oracle Corp., that California law should apply to the 23(b)(3) California class. However, the district court erred in determining that choice-of-law considerations defeated predominance and adequacy for the proposed Arizona and Florida Rule 23(b)(3) classes. In this case, the district court fundamentally misunderstood the proper application of California's choice-of-law principles—which, when correctly applied, indicate that Arizona law should govern the Arizona class, and Florida law the Florida class. The panel also held that the district court erred in refusing to certify a Rule 23(b)(2) class for unpaid work at defendants' training facilities in Arizona and Florida on the sole basis that choice-of-law issues undermined "cohesiveness" and therefore made injunctive and declaratory relief inappropriate. Furthermore, the district court erred in imposing a "cohesiveness" requirement for the proposed Rule 23(b)(2) class.The panel held that the predominance requirement was met as to the Arizona and Florida classes, covering alleged minimum wage violations based on the lack of any pay for time spent participating in spring training, extended spring training, and instructional leagues. In regard to the California class -- covering overtime and minimum wage claims relating to work performed during the championship season -- the panel also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that defendant's uniform pay policy, the team schedules, and representative evidence established predominance. The panel rejected defendants' contention that the district court was required to rigorously analyze the Main Survey.The panel affirmed the district court's certification of the FLSA collective action. Applying Campbell v. City of L.A., which postdated the district court's ruling, the panel held that the district court's use of the ad hoc approach was harmless error. The panel also affirmed the district court's certification of the FLSA collective as to plaintiffs' overtime claims. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Senne v. Kansas City Royals Baseball" on Justia Law
In Re: National Football League Players Concussion Injury Litigation.
Multidistrict litigation was formed to handle claims filed by former professional football players against the NFL based on concussion-related injuries. The district court (Judge Brody) approved a settlement agreement, effective January 2017. The Third Circuit affirmed; the Supreme Court denied certiorari. Under the agreement, approximately 200,000 class members surrendered their claims in exchange for proceeds from an uncapped settlement fund. Class members had to submit medical records reflecting a qualifying diagnosis. The Claims Administrator determines whether the applicant qualifies for an award. In March 2017, the claims submission process opened for class members who had been diagnosed with a qualifying illness before January 7, 2017. Other class members had to receive a diagnosis from a practitioner approved through the settlement Baseline Assessment Program (BAP). Class members could register for BAP appointments beginning in June 2017. While waiting to receive their awards, hundreds of class members entered into cash advance agreements with litigation funding companies, purporting to “assign” their rights to settlement proceeds in exchange for immediate cash. Class members did not assign their legal claims against the NFL. Judge Brody retained jurisdiction over the administration of the settlement agreement, which included an anti-assignment provision.Class counsel advised Judge Brody that he was concerned about predatory lending. Judge Brody ordered class members to inform the Claims Administrator of all assignment agreements, and purported to void all such agreements, directing a procedure under which funding companies could accept rescission and return of the principal amount they had advanced. The Third Circuit vacated. Despite having the authority to void prohibited assignments, the court went too far in voiding the cash advance agreements and voiding contractual provisions that went only to a lender’s right to receive funds after the player acquired them. View "In Re: National Football League Players Concussion Injury Litigation." on Justia Law
Finkelman v. National Football League
In 2014, Super Bowl XLVIII was held at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium. Finkelman alleges that the NFL has a policy of withholding 99% of Super Bowl tickets from the general public; 75% of the withheld tickets are split among NFL teams and 25% of tickets are for companies, broadcast networks, media sponsors, the host committee, and other “league insiders.” The 1% of tickets for public purchase are sold through a lottery system. A person has to enter by the deadline, be selected as a winner, and choose to actually purchase a ticket. Finkelman purchased tickets on the secondary market for $2,000 per ticket, although these tickets had a face value of $800 each. He did not enter the lottery to seek tickets offered at face value but filed a putative class action under New Jersey’s Ticket Law, N.J. Stat. 56:8-35.1: It shall be an unlawful practice for a person, who has access to tickets to an event prior to the tickets’ release for sale to the general public, to withhold those tickets from sale to the general public in an amount exceeding 5% of all available seating. The Third Circuit concluded that Finkelman had standing based on the plausible economic facts he pleaded, but deferred action on the merits pending decision by the Supreme Court of New Jersey on a pending petition for certification of questions of state law. View "Finkelman v. National Football League" on Justia Law
Ibe v. Jones
Appellants purchased tickets to Super Bowl XLV and were either displaced from their seats, relocated, or had an obstructed view of the field. The majority of the affected ticketholders settled with the NFL. However, appellants in this instance elected to file suit, alleging various claims relating to breach of contract and fraud. Most of appellants’ claims were dismissed before trial, and class certification was denied. Seven individual appellants went to trial against the NFL and prevailed on breach of contract, but not on fraudulent inducement claims. The court concluded that, because appellants have presented no authority supporting that a third-party vendor with limited responsibility is also responsible for the performance of the express ticket terms, appellants’ argument that the Cowboys are liable for their tort claims fails; an inference of fraudulent inducement is untenable; and the economic loss rule bars appellants' claims. The court also concluded that the contract claims failed where the unambiguous term of the contract entitling ticketholders to “a spectator seat for the game” was not breached by an obstructed view of the video board. Furthermore, the fraudulent inducement claims failed because appellants were not fraudulently induced to buy Super Bowl tickets thinking they would see the game on the video board. As to class certification, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to certify the Displaced Class, the Relocated Class, and the Obstructed-View Class. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to give appellants' proposed jury instruction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Ibe v. Jones" on Justia Law
In re: NFL Players Concussion Injury Litig.
In 2011, former professional football players sued the NFL and Riddell, Inc., claiming that the NFL failed to take reasonable actions to protect them from the chronic risks of head injuries in football, and that Riddell, an equipment manufacturer, should be liable for the defective design of helmets. In 2012, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated the cases in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which, in 2014, approved a class action settlement that covered over 20,000 retired players and released all concussion-related claims against the NFL. There were 202 opt-outs. Objectors argued that class certification was improper and that the settlement was unfair. The Third Circuit affirmed, stating: “This settlement will provide nearly $1 billion in value to the class of retired players. It is a testament to the players, researchers, and advocates who have worked to expose the true human costs of a sport so many love. Though not perfect, it is fair.” View "In re: NFL Players Concussion Injury Litig." on Justia Law
Golan v. Veritas Entm’t, LLC
In 2012 the Golans received two unsolicited, prerecorded messages on their home phone line. Each message, recorded by Mike Huckabee, stated: "Liberty. This is a public survey call. We may call back later." The Golans had not answered the phone; more than one million people did and received a much longer message. The Golans filed a putative class action, alleging that the phone calls were part of a telemarketing campaign to promote the film, Last Ounce of Courage, in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, and the Missouri Do Not Call Law. The district court dismissed with prejudice, concluding that the Golans did not have standing and were inadequate class representatives, being subject to a "unique defense" because they had heard only the brief message recording on their answering machine. The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded. The calls were initiated and transmitted in order to promote Last Ounce of Courage and qualified as "telemarketing" even though the messages never referenced the film. Because the purpose of the calls was the critical issue, the Golans were not subject to a unique defense. Nor did they suffer a different injury than class members who heard the entire message. View "Golan v. Veritas Entm't, LLC" on Justia Law
Marshall v. Nat’l Football League
A class action complaint alleged that for many years the commercial filmmaking wing of the NFL used the names, images, likenesses, and identities of former NFL players in videos to generate revenue and promote the NFL. It asserted claims for false endorsement (Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125), common law and statutory rights of publicity claims under several states' laws, and unjust enrichment. The court approved a settlement calling for: creation of the Common Good Entity, a non-profit organization; payment of up to $42 million to the Common Good Entity over eight years; establishment of the Licensing Agency; payment of $100,000 worth of media value to the Licensing Agency each year until 2021; (5) Payment of attorneys' fees and settlement administration expenses; a reserve for the NFL's potential fees and costs involving class members who opt out; and class members' perpetual release of claims and publicity rights for the NFL and related entities to use. The Common Good Entity is "dedicated to supporting and promoting the health and welfare of Retired Players and other similarly situated individuals." Six players (the class had about 25,000 members) objected. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, finding the settlement fair, reasonable, and adequate despite not providing for a direct financial payment to each class member. View "Marshall v. Nat'l Football League" on Justia Law
Fischer v. Time Warner Cable Inc.
Time Warner Cable buys content from programmers, who require it to offer their channels as part of TW’s enhanced basic cable programming tier. TW paid the Lakers $3 billion for licensing rights to televise Lakers games for 20 years. Subscription rates rose by $5 a month as result. TW paid the Dodgers $8 billion for the licensing rights to televise games for 25 years, raising monthly rates by another $4. Subscribers filed a class action lawsuit, alleging that the arrangement violated the unfair competition law (Bus. & Prof. Code 17200) because: acquisition of licensing rights to the games made TW both programmer and distributor; surveys showed that more than 60 percent of the population would not pay separately to watch the games; there were no valid reasons for bundling sports stations into the enhanced basic cable tier instead of offering them separately; TW expanded the reach of this scheme by selling its rights to the games to other providers, requiring those providers to include the channels as part of their enhanced basic tiers; and the teams knew the increased costs would be passed on to unwilling subscribers and were intended beneficiaries of these arrangements. The court of appeal affirmed dismissal: regulations implementing federal communications statutes expressly preempt the suit. View "Fischer v. Time Warner Cable Inc." on Justia Law