Stuck between anger and depression over Sunday's debacle in the Dome, a few dyspeptic New Orleans Saints fans have settled into an equally predictable stage of grief: litigation.
Two fan lawsuits filed Tuesday claim the NFL must be forced to pay for the pain and suffering inflicted on Saints fans by the botched "no call" that halted the team's march to the Super Bowl.
The first suit came Tuesday morning, filed on behalf of two Saints season ticket holders and the "Who Dat Nation," demanding a hearing over the officiating in the waning minutes of regulation time. (Courts were closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.)
A second suit followed hours later, filed by another ticket buyer who claims the NFL "cannot be trusted to police itself" following Sunday's officiating horror in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
In the aftermath of the missed pass interference call in Sunday's NFC Championship Game which ultimately cost the New Orleans Saints a trip to…
The first lawsuit, filed in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, claims the named plaintiffs, Tommy Badeaux and Candis Lambert, and their fellow Saints fans suffered myriad damages when referees failed to call a clear pass-interference penalty that spelled the difference in Sunday's game. It names NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league as defendants.
Among the alleged damages: past, present and future mental anguish and emotional trauma, "loss of enjoyment of life" and "distrust of the game which has become the national pastime."
The five-page lawsuit sets no dollar figure for that damage but asks a judge to set a hearing prior to the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.
Both lawsuits recount the horror that unfolded for Saints fans with less than two minutes remaining on the clock. That’s when Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman slammed into Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis as a pass from quarterback Drew Brees headed their way.
Another Saints ticket-holder filed a lawsuit Tuesday afternoon, claiming the NFL defrauded him and other fans by failing to enforce its own rules.
The obvious infraction drew no flag from any official on the field. A flag would likely have allowed the Saints either to score a touchdown or run down the clock and kick a game-winning field goal.
The suit notes that Robey-Coleman admitted to the blatant foul, and that Saints coach Sean Payton reported that league officials swiftly acknowledged the blunder after the game — an account the league has not disputed.
“The impact of the non-call is egregious and demands recourse,” states the lawsuit, filed by attorney Frank D'Amico Jr.
“As a direct result of the said incident, plaintiffs herein have been left bereft and with no faith in the National Football League for fairness despite the league’s own rules to correct such errors, along with emotional anguish (and) monetary loss for ticket holders, who purchase tickets with the presumption of integrity and fairness.”
While the suit doesn't spell out the precise recourse sought, it notes an NFL rule that would allow Goodell to order that the game be replayed, either in its entirety or beginning after the point the offending non-call occurred.
The case is assigned to Judge Piper Griffin, who was first elected to the civil court bench in 2001.
Michael McCann, a legal analyst for Sports Illustrated, wrote Monday that such legal gambits are destined to fail.
Add the New Orleans City Council to the long list of Saints fans angered by the blown NFL call that likely cost the team a trip to the Super Bowl.
McCann argued that the time for Goodell to invoke an NFL rule granting him “sole authority” to rewind a game is before the game is over. Asking a judge now to enforce that rule won’t fly in a courtroom, McCann wrote.
“Bad calls and other irregularities (real or perceived) have led to lawsuits from aggrieved players and fans. Those lawsuits have failed,” he wrote. “Courts have consistently enunciated that bad calls are not causes of action for courts to consider.”
That cold water didn't stop Darrell Guillory of St. Charles Parish from filing his lawsuit later Tuesday, claiming he bought a ticket to the game and was defrauded by the NFL’s failure to enforce its own rules.
That lawsuit, fashioned as a class action, names as defendants the NFL, the state as the body overseeing the Superdome, the NFL Referees Association and four NFL officials: Bill Vinovich, Phillip McKinnely, Gary Cavaletto and Todd Prukop.
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McKinnely was mistakenly identified as being on the field for Sunday's game. An amended petition from Guillory filed later Tuesday removed McKinnely's name from the suit. The line judge who was seen keeping his penalty flag in his pocket, Patrick Turner, is not named.
The complaint accuses the NFL of “promoting a culture of selective enforcement of its own rules based on profit, including the failure to take action which might serve to hurt the Los Angeles Rams organization, as it would result in upsetting the third largest market in the United States.”
Citing the NFL’s handling of the “Spy-Gate” scandal that roiled the New England Patriots in 2015, as well as its tepid early response to evidence of severe brain injuries in retired players, the lawsuit claims the league can’t be trusted to be above-board when investigating the misdeeds of its teams or officials.
Guillory claims the league breached a contractual duty to ticket-holders. His lawsuit cites “intentional infliction of emotional distress” and “mental anguish” among the damages for which it claims the league must pay.
Guillory’s lawsuit also demands compensation for the cost of game tickets, parking, hotels, travel, and lost earnings for business owners.
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