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Super Bowl Tickets Case: Forward Motion

By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 18, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's the Super Bowl of lawsuits. Wait, no, it's the lawsuit of Super Bowls.

Actually, it's a lawsuit against the NFL for allegedly gouging fans for tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII. It's not that complicated, but the NFL has been sued more than once over Super Bowl tickets.

This time, in Finkelman v. National Football League, a fan says the NFL sold out the public by withholding 99 percent of its tickets for league insiders and leaving non-insiders to pay inflated prices on the resale market.

Higher Ticket Prices

Finkelman filed the class-action in 2014, saying he had to pay $2,000 for $800 tickets because of the NFL's practice. A trial judge said he didn't have standing to sue for the class, however, and the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

The plaintiff amended the complaint, but the trial judge dismissed again for the same reasons. This time, however, the appeals court disagreed because the complaint explained how the NFL's action caused higher ticket prices.

"Specifically, Finkelman alleged that the insiders to whom the NFL presently provides tickets are more likely to re-sell those tickets through third-party brokers to keep those sales anonymous, and those brokers in turn are more likely to charge higher prices," the appeals court observed. "But if more tickets were made available to fans initially, fans would be more likely than the NFL insiders are to sell through direct fan-to-fan sales, and the prices would likely be lower."

The appeals panel made no findings on the alleged facts, but said they were "specific, plausible and susceptible to proof at trial."

Economic Theory

Reversing the trial court, the Third Circuit said Finkelman does not have to prove his economic theory in his complaint. It is enough that he alleged sufficient facts to proceed.

The NFL will have a chance to disprove the theory, but it has settled Super Bowl ticket cases before. Earlier this year, the league agreed to compensate fans who complained about tickets for Super Bowl XLV.

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