New England Patriots Fans File Frivolous Lawsuit Against N.F.L. Over Deflategate Sanctions
A group of New England Patriots fans are providing us with the latest example of stupid lawsuits that don't belong in Court at all.
A group of New England Patriots fans has filed a lawsuit against the National Football League over the “DeflateGate” scandal alleging that the sanctions applied against the team, which include the loss of a number of draft picks, have damaged them as fans, and it may well be among the most frivolous lawsuits ever filed:
Some Patriots fans will just not let it go.
After more than a year of fury over the “Deflategate” decision, even after it was mostly reversed, a group of fans is now taking a case to court.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Federal District Court, with a home-field advantage in Boston, the fans demand that the N.F.L. return the first-round draft pick taken from the team as punishment for the scandal. The suit seeks no monetary compensation.
Fans live and die with their teams, and some surely suffer acutely when the team has a setback. But legal experts say this suit has little chance of success.
“We have an uphill battle,” Seth Carey, the lawyer who filed the suit, acknowledged in a statement, “but that never stopped a bunch of simple farmers with muskets from taking down a mighty repressive regime.”
Michael McCann, a sports law professor at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, told The Associated Press, “Paying for a ticket to watch the Patriots play isn’t interfered with by the team losing a draft pick or two.”
Calling the N.F.L. commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to take the draft pick “arbitrary and capricious,” the suit contends that fans of the team were harmed by it.
The main plaintiff, Todd Orsatti, a resident of Bristol, Conn., is a Patriots season-ticket holder who goes to games with his 7-year-old daughter. “She will no longer go to games with him because she thinks the games are fixed by the N.F.L. after her team was punished merely based on conjecture,” the suit says. “She is talking about finding another team, which has left Orsatti ‘devastated.’ ”
The suit names Goodell, the N.F.L. and, oddly enough, the Patriots owner Robert K. Kraft as defendants. Kraft is cited because he agreed to the loss of the pick. “Defendant Robert Kraft had remedies to get plaintiff’s draft pick back, but he chose his fellow billionaire owners above the plaintiffs and fellow fans,” the suit contends.
Looking at the pleading, there are a number of things that stand out that make one wonder why any attorney would dare to put their name to this lawsuit. For one thing, the suit is styled in the name of something called “New England Patriots Fans” but fails to allege exactly what, if any, kind of organization this actually is. Given the fact that there are a number of Plaintiff season ticket holders listed as parties to the suit further down the pleading, one presumes that “New England Patriots Fans” is not an organization of any kind but essentially just a stand in for the name of the individual Plaintiffs themselves. This is generally not a permissible way to style a lawsuit in Federal Court, or indeed in any Court I am aware of. To be honest, it’s the kind of mistake that can easily be fixed, but it is just the first of many such mistakes that will likely prove problematic for the Plaintiffs and their attorney.
The bigger issue here is that there is quite simply no legal merit to any of the claims that the Plaintiffs in this lawsuit have asserted. Even if it were completely true that the N.F.L. had no factual basis to allege that either Tom Brady or the Patriots had any direct knowledge of an effort to intentionally deflate footballs, the Plaintiffs quite simply have no legal standing to contest that decision. The only entity that would have such a right would be the Patriots themselves, and they determined that because of the way the N.F.L. rules are structured that, unlike the rights granted to Brady under the collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Player’s Association, the team had no real basis to challenge the sanctions imposed against it. Whether or not that is an accurate interpretation of the applicable rules, the fact that the Patriots chose not to appeal the sanctions against the team does not give fans, either individually or collectively, the right to sue the N.F.L. for a decision that only impacts them tangentially at best and which causes them no damage, the claims of Mr. Orsetti regarding his daughter to the contrary notwithstanding.
There are plenty of silly lawsuits filed on a daily basis, and one could argue that the N.F.L. hardly needs the sympathy of being cited as the latest example of a victim of such nonsense, but this lawsuit is so egregiously bad that it strikes me as being a perfect candidate for sanctions that are rarely imposed. In Federal Courts, Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that each pleading filed in Federal Court carries with it the implied representation that, among other things, ” the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law.” There is, quire honestly, nothing about this lawsuit that meets this requirement and the attorney who filed it ought to have known better than to put their name to the pleading. In addition to filing an immediate motion to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim, which seems inevitable in this case, one would hope that the Defendants in this case would file a motion for sanctions under Rule 11 if only to send a message to the Plaintiffs and their attorney, along with any future Defendants, that silly, stupid lawsuits like this do not belong in Court. If they wish to avoid those sanctions, I would strongly suggest that the Plaintiffs dismiss their lawsuit as soon as possible.
Here’s the Complaint: