DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It has taken four years, but the seven fans suing the NFL finally had their day in court Monday.
They sued the NFL after the 2011 Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington after they discovered their seats had obstructed views or had no seats at all.
After seating a jury of seven women and one man, attorneys for the plaintiffs and the NFL gave opening statements.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti told jurors the Super Bowl between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers was at the top of their bucket lists.
Avenatti told the jury the NFL failed to live up to its end of the bargain, and blamed ego, greed, and gross incompetence, in part by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones.
One fan he said paid $35,000 for four tickets, but didn’t have seats when they arrived.
The NFL told jurors the league found other seats for them.
In all, 1200 temporary seats weren’t allowed to be used.
Most fans received other seats, but 400 did not.
Other fans complained their views were blocked.
Avenatti showed jurors emails between league executives and said Goodell & Jones were “obsessed” with breaking the NFL’s Super Bowl attendance record.
It dated back to Super Bowl 14 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California in 1980 when 103,985 fans attended.
Avenatti showed another email from NFL executives showing the goal for the 2011 Super Bowl in Arlington was 108,900.
But the plaintiff’s attorney showed emails between NFL executives discussing problems they were having setting up temporary seats needed to accommodate the fans.
During opening statements, Avenatti showed another email in which league executives were quoting “JJ”, Jerry Jones, as saying, “Let’s do what we want to do and deal with the push back when it comes.”
A spokesman for the Cowboys declined comment Monday afternoon.
Another email Avenatti showed to jurors quoted NFL executives one week before the game. “It is a big mess” and that it was going to be “big fun on Sunday.”
In their opening statements, the NFL’s attorney acknowledged the problems with the seating at the stadium.
The league’s lawyer told jurors that the league wants to pay the plaintiffs for what they’re owed: refunds for the tickets, airfare, hotels, and meals.
The NFL has previously said it offered fair compensation to the affected ticket holders.
After the game, the NFL said the 400 fans who didn’t get seats were offered $2400, three times the face value of the $800 ticket and free tickets to the next Super Bowl.
That number was later raised to $5,000.
The league’s attorney told the jury fair and reasonable compensation is warranted.
While Jerry Jones’ name was mentioned during opening statements, he and the Cowboys are not defendants in the case.
During the trial, he, team Vice-President Stephen Jones, and Goodell could be called as witnesses to testify before jurors.
No word yet if that will happen.
Judge Barbara Lynn said she expected the trial to wrap up in two weeks.