Third Circuit Sacks Spygate Suit

A ticket to a football game doesn’t come with any promise that the contest will be an honest one, a federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday, rejecting an appeal by fans who said they were defrauded in the recent New England Patriots “Spygate” scandal. In the suit, a proposed class action, lead plaintiff Carl Mayer, a New York Jets fan, claimed that he and other ticket holders were cheated out of what they had paid for — an honest game, played under NFL rules — when the New England Patriots surreptitiously filmed the signals of their opponents.

At issue in the appeal was “the alleged existence of a very specific but very different and unusual right: namely, the right of a ticket holder to see an ‘honest’ game played in compliance with the fundamental rules of the NFL itself.”

Although the case was unique, the courts have consistently rejected comparable claims, such as the ruling that said boxing fans weren’t cheated when Mike Tyson was disqualified for biting a chunk out of Evander Holyfield’s ear. As the New York Appellate Division explained in that case: “that there was nothing in any contract promising a fight that did not end in a disqualification.” In this case, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that a lower court correctly dismissed the suit on the grounds that fans cannot claim any “cognizable injury” that stems from paying to watch a game that is later deemed to have an element of cheating. Further, “a ruling in favor of [the ticket-holders] could lead to other disappointed fans filing lawsuits because of ‘a blown call’ that apparently caused their team to lose or any number of allegedly improper acts committed by teams, coaches, players, referees and umpires, and others,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Robert E. Cowen.

Thanks to Sheila Osei for her contribution to this post.