DALLAS - A federal jury on Thursday ordered the NFL to pay nearly $76,000 to fans affected by the 2011 Super Bowl seating mess in Texas, wrapping up a trial that included testimony from Commissioner Roger Goodell and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
The eight-member jury in Dallas concluded that the NFL breached its contracts with seven holders of tickets to the game at the Dallas Cowboys' stadium in Arlington. However, the jury concluded the league did not defraud the fans.
The NFL must pay the money to the seven fans. Five said they ended up with no seats and two said they had obstructed views at the $1.2 billion stadium for the game in which Green Bay won the championship over Pittsburgh. The jury ordered compensation ranging from $5,670 to $22,000.
About 1,250 temporary seats were deemed unsafe hours before kickoff. That forced about 850 ticket holders to move to new seats and 400 others to standing-room areas. The NFL has said it fully compensated displaced fans.
Plaintiffs' attorney Michael Avenatti asked U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn to withhold her final judgment until he can take a sworn statement from Scott Suprina, the contractor hired to install the 1,200 temporary seats. Lynn said she would alert Avenatti in advance of any judgment finalizing the jury verdict.
Avenatti had filed an emergency motion on Wednesday, claiming the NFL had influenced Suprina's testimony in its favour during a video deposition played for the jury. Suprina told The Dallas Morning News he testified truthfully and crafted his statements in the league's favour only in public statements.
Despite the split verdict, Avenatti hailed the jury's decision.
"One of the most powerful, wealthiest organizations in the world was found by a jury here in Dallas to have cheated its fans and to have not kept its end of the bargain," he told reporters afterward.
However, NFL defence attorney Thad Behrens said the jury verdict achieves what the league had been willing to do all along.
"The NFL has always accepted responsibility for the problems that were experienced by some of its fans at Super Bowl XLV and has attempted from the beginning to compensate them for their genuinely received losses and inconvenience," Behrens said. Reading from a prepared statement, Behrens told reporters that the league was gratified that jurors agreed that it had not defrauded those fans.
In videotaped testimony, Goodell said the league was responsible for the problems.
"I'm not blaming others. I'm blaming ourselves. I'm accepting responsibility," Goodell said in the deposition, which was recorded in 2013. "It is our event. It is our responsibility to produce it in a positive way and make sure we deliver on our promise."
During his testimony, Jones denied suggestions the seating problems might have stemmed from his desire to set a Super Bowl attendance record.