Haynes and Boone advised the National Football League in the case
The Third Circuit’s decision, issued on January 31, affirmed an earlier decision by the United States District Court in New Jersey which granted Haynes and Boone’s motion to dismiss a class action brought to challenge the NFL’s distribution of tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII.
The action, Josh Finkelman v. National Football League, concerned the NFL’s distribution of tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII, which was held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey in 2014 – and was billed as the first Super Bowl ever played outdoors in a cold-weather city. In January 2014, Mr. Finkelman, who purchased two tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII on the secondary market for prices in excess of face value, filed a putative class action in the United States District Court of New Jersey against the NFL and four of its affiliates relating to the league’s distribution of Super Bowl tickets. Finkelman alleged that the NFL’s distribution of tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII violated New Jersey state law.
The law at issue, Section 35.1 of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, establishes that:
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 for the event. (N.J. Sta. Ann. § 56:8-19.)
Finkelman argued that the NFL’s distribution of tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII necessarily violated the statute because it is widely known that 99 percent of all Super Bowl Tickets are not released for sale to the general public. Instead, Finkelman alleged that the NFL typically distributed 99 percent of all Super Bowl tickets to its teams and business partners and the remaining 1 percent of tickets to winners of the NFL’s Super Bowl ticket lottery.
The NFL argued that its distribution practices for Super Bowl XLVIII did not violate the New Jersey law because the 5 percent restriction only applied to tickets that, in the first instance, were designated for release for sale to general public. Because the only tickets that were even arguably released for sale to the general public were the 1 percent of tickets released for sale through the NFL’s ticket lottery – none of which Finkelman alleged were withheld – the NFL argued that Finkelman could not demonstrate a statutory violation.
Haynes and Boone successfully obtained dismissal of Finkelman’s claims on two separate occasions before the New Jersey District Court. However, in December 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the district court’s decision to dismiss the case on standing grounds and certified the state law question to the New Jersey Supreme Court for its review.
The NFL was represented by New York Partner Jonathan Pressment (Picture) and Associate William Feldman.
Law Firms: Haynes and Boone;
Clients: National Football League;