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Houston Astros Hit With Sign-Stealing Suit By Ticket Holders (2)

Feb. 18, 2020, 5:34 PMUpdated: Feb. 18, 2020, 8:38 PM

A Houston Astros fan is suing the team over its sign-stealing scheme, arguing season ticket holders were overcharged.

The suit says baseball fans overpaid for season tickets starting in 2017, when the team used cameras to steal opponents’ pitch signs, tipping off batters by banging on a trash can.

Major League Baseball fined the Astros $5 million and suspended two of the team’s managers, who were then fired by the team the same day. The league also took away the Astros’ top draft picks through 2021. The suit seeks to prevent the team from increasing season ticket prices for at least two years as a result.

Season ticket holder Adam Wallach sued on behalf of fans like himself. It comes after another sign-stealing suit from a fantasy baseball fan, who argues cheating on the field undermined fantasy wagers. That suit takes aim at Major League Baseball’s business ties with the sports betting industry.

Lawsuits from sports fans typically don’t fare well because most courts see tickets as only giving a fan the right to see a game, regardless of how it turns out.

“A ticket typically gives a fan the right to see a game, but that right has historically not extended much beyond the right to enter and have a game start,” said John Holden, a business professor at Oklahoma State University who studies sports betting. “Even in instances where a game ends prematurely, courts have often determined that fans are not entitled to relief.”

“In this case the Astros played all the games, despite what sounds like an elaborate and systematic scheme to gain an advantage, the likelihood of success for the fans is low,” Holden said in an email.

Causes of Action: Negligence, breach of implied contract, violation of Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, unjust enrichment.

Relief: Injunctive relief, damages, refund, restitution or disgorgement, attorneys’ fees and costs.

Potential Class Size: Several thousand season ticket holders.

Response: A spokesman for the Astros said the organization doesn’t comment on pending legal matters.

Attorneys: Mitchell A. Toups Ltd. and the Coffman Law Firm represent the plaintiffs.

The case is Wallach v. Houston Astros LLC, Tex. Dist. Ct., No. 202010637-7, 2/14/20.

(Updates with additional reporting)

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bloomberglaw.com; Andrea Vittorio in Washington at avittorio@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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