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Saints Fans Can’t Force Playoff Game Replay Over Penalty Flub

Feb. 1, 2019, 3:09 PM

New Orleans Saints fans can’t compel National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell to investigate or overturn a missed penalty call, a Louisiana federal court ruled Jan. 31.

The court also denied the fans’ motion to remand the case to state court, ruling that they had filed a class action under federal law.

Late in the National Football Conference Championship game Jan. 20, a Los Angeles Rams cornerback made improper helmet-to-helmet contact with a New Orleans Saints wide receiver. The referees did not call a penalty, and Goodell acknowledged that the referees missed the call.

Two Saints fans sued Goodell and the NFL in Louisiana state court, seeking to represent a class of Saints season ticket holders and fans, “a/k/a The Who Dat Nation,” and any other affected party. They sought relief based on “mental anguish and emotional trauma,” “loss of faith in the NFL,” “loss of enjoyment of life,” loss of entertainment,” and “distrust of the game which has become a national pastime.” They also requested an order requiring Goodell to reverse the result of the game, schedule a replay of the game, or conduct an investigation.

The NFL removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and the court denied the fans’ request to return the case to state court. Even though the fans had never sought to certify a class, the court had jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act. There were over 100 plaintiffs, minimal diversity, and there was an aggregate amount in controversy of over $5,000,000 based on 60,000 season ticketholders claiming $100 each in damages, the court said.

The court also denied the request for a writ of mandamus. The court said that the writ is an “extraordinary remedy” under Louisiana state law that only applies to corporations, LLCs, or their officers, and the NFL is an unincorporated association. The court also said that only members or managers of the organization can seek a writ of mandamus.

It was also unclear what the fans were trying to compel Goodell to do, the court said. The fans had at different points requested a reversal of the game’s result, a rescheduling of the game, a full investigation into the missed call, and to “compel [Goodell] to follow the NFL Rules.”

Judge Susie Morgan wrote the opinion.

Frank J. D’Amico Jr. APLC; Dugan Law Firm APLC; Chehardy, Sherman, Williams, Murray, Recile, Stakelum & Hayes LLC; and Alvendia, Kelly, & Demarest LLC represent the plaintiffs. Jones, Swanson, Huddell, & Garrison LLC represents the NFL.

The case is Badeaux v. Goodell, E.D. La., No. 2:19-cv-00566, 1/31/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Blake Brittain in Washington at bbrittain@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com