No Leg To Stand On: New Orleans Saints Fan Sues Roger Goodell and the NFL

The New Orleans Saints bounty scandal is the story that just will not end.  Just when you think it’s over, it takes on a new, unexpected twist.

The latest twist was turned on Monday, when New Orleans Saints season ticket holder and fan, David Mancina filed a class action lawsuit against Roger Goodell and the NFL resulting from its handling of the bounty scandal.

Mancina alleges that he, season ticket holders and those purchasing single-game tickets to New Orleans Saints’ 2012 games “. . . purchased their tickets with the representation, and
expectation, from the Commissioner and the League that the Saints would be capable of
competitively fielding a contending team comprised of the finest athletes, and the best coaches.”  He asserts that the team has been unable to accomplish this because of what he calls “. . . dictatorial, unreasonable, vindictive, and unfounded, interference from
the Commissioner and the League, devoid of due process.”  Not surprisingly, in making his claim, Mancina references the various suspensions levied by Goodell on March 21, 2012 related to his investigation of the Saints’ alleged bounty program.  Mancina claims that these suspensions were levied after season ticket holders purchased their tickets and without giving notice of the investigation to fans.  He asserts that the suspension of four Saints players, several Saints coaches and the Saints’ general manager devastated “. . . the quality of the Saints; the value of the tickets purchased. . . subsequent to their purchase; and the confidence and emotional attachment of Plaintiff, and the class, to the Saints. . .”

Ultimately, Mancina alleges that by suspending players, coaches and the Saints’ general manager, Goodell and the NFL penalized purchasers of Saints tickets.  He claims that they could have issued hefty fines against the alleged bounty program participants which “. . . would have impacted the alleged violators. . . without impacting the quality of
play.”  Notably, Mancina claims that ticket holders have been punished “more than anyone”–an argument that the likes of Jonathan Vilma would likely dispute.

From the lawsuit, Mancina and the class are seeking “. . . damages resulting from: the diminishment [sic] in the value of their tickets; their personal emotional reaction to the unwarranted penalties inflicted on their beloved team, players, coaches, and executives; and the deliberate reduction of the competitive capability of the Saints due to the selective gutting of the critical components needed to justify the loyalty of Plaintiff and the class.”  Mancina alleges that the amount of these damages exceeds $5 million.  He also argues that the class is made up of 85,000 individuals.  He does not specify where either of these numbers comes from.

In reviewing Mancina’s lawsuit, one thing is certain:  The NFL and Goodell do not have much to worry about, other than hiring an attorney and paying the legal fees to have this case dismissed.  It is likely that NFL and Goodell will file a 12 (b) (6) motion.  In federal court, a 12 (b) (6) motion is a motion to dismiss a case when it “fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”  Nowhere in Mancina’s lawsuit does he alleged that Goodell and NFL violated any federal law or statute.  Given this, his lawsuit arguably does not state a legal claim upon which a court can grant relief.  As such, the lawsuit should be dismissed at this stage of the proceedings.

The attorney Mancina found to file this lawsuit also has reason to be concerned.  It would not be surprising for Goodell and the NFL’s attorneys to ask that the judge impose sanctions against this lawyer for filing this lawsuit.  In federal court, when a lawyer files a lawsuit, he or she must make certain certifications.  Amongst other things, the lawyer must certify to the court that the lawsuit is not presented for any improper purpose (harassment, delay, etc.) and that the legal contentions therein are warranted by existing law.  As noted above, the issue with this lawsuit, is that it does not contain any legal contentions.  Thus, lawyers for Goodell and NFL could file what is called a Rule 11 motion for sanctions.  Filing this motion would require Mancina’s lawyers to amend their complaint within 21 days to actually allege violations of the law, or be sanctioned.  Given that this would arguably prolong the length of this matter, when the NFL and Goodell could just have the case thrown out under Rule 12 (b) (6), it is unlikely that their lawyers will go this route.

While dismissal of this case is incredibly certain, one more thing is certain:  for Goodell and the NFL, the alleged Saints bounty scandal has likely become a bigger thorn in their sides than they ever could have imagined.

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