Posts Tagged ‘sports’

Milwaukee stadium fees: through the roof

The Miller Park stadium district sued Mitsubishi Heavy Industries over alleged defects in construction of the structure’s roof, and Mitsubishi filed a counterclaim. The case was settled a year ago for a $45 million payment between the main parties; now-unsealed court documents indicate that the parties rang up at least $37 million in legal fees. An attorney employed by insurer Travelers Property Casualty Co. of America, which is contesting some of the bills, says millions were spent on consultants and engineers with no detailed descriptions of the work performed. As for the lawyers’ own bills, “Some of the billing entries that have been disclosed are so outrageous they leave no doubt that the bills were never reviewed carefully, even by the firms submitting them,” wrote Katherine Stadler, [another] Travelers attorney. “A charge specifically labeled ‘do not charge client,’ time billed to bring the lawyers lunch, a $5,000 charge for one hour of expert work, and a bill for purchases at a Japanese souvenir shop are only a few examples.”

Several attorneys involved in the case, however, describe the fees and expenses as neither excessive nor disproportionate. “John Hinderaker, a Minneapolis attorney who helped defend the stadium district, said the ‘district bought a completely successful defense of an $87 million claim.” Unless there is another Minneapolis attorney of the same name, that would be the same attorney John Hinderaker who publishes the much visited PowerLine blog. (Don Walker, “Legal fees in Miller Park case go through the roof “, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mar. 4) (via Marquette lawprof Rick Esenberg, who describes the billing in the case as “a tsunami of fees” (Mar. 5) which may however reflect the unfolding logic of expense in big lawsuits rather than anyone’s having been “dishonest or cavalier about the clients’ money”).

Baseball: Anaheim vs. the Angels

As the city’s $100 million lawsuit unfolded in court, a “dispute that a year or so ago seemed goofy — Arte Moreno’s decision to rename his baseball team the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim — has lost its humor content.” (Dana Parsons, “Can Angels Name Spat Have a Winner?”, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 15)(more).

Update: Colo. recreational land use

Per the Colorado Civil Justice League:

House Bill 1049, sponsored by Rep. Witwer and Sen. Grossman, [if passed by the state legislature] would ensure that private landowners who grant public access to their lands for recreation aren’t penalized by the law for their generosity.

As we noted Aug. 5, the state’s reputation as a paradise for mountain climbing is suffering as fear of liability makes more landowners reluctant to grant access to climbers.

Sports-ticket options?

An Internet site has begun offering “sports-ticket options.” I’ll let Brad Humphreys’s “Sports Economist” blog explain: “For example, I could currently purchase the option to a ticket to the Final Four to see my alma mater, West Virginia University, for $27. If the Mountaineers make the final four, I would pay the face value of the ticket ($140, according to the web site), plus my $27 option.” Over the course of the season, the market for the option fluctuates, and one can sell or buy it. Here’s the catch: “If the Mountaineers didn’t make the Final Four, my option would be worthless and I would be out $27.” Tom Kirkendall and Tyler Cowen, an exceptionally intelligent lawyer and economist respectively, also comment, as does Wired Magazine.

And, yet, somehow, all three bloggers miss a large point of the exercise: to try to get around the anti-gambling laws. Despite the site’s claim to be merely a market-clearing place, there’s no option available for one to actually offer to sell one’s tickets. So where are the tickets coming from? (In case of the Rose Bowl, from the event itself.) Or going to?: the Wired story never interviews anyone who actually ends up with a ticket. Not to suggest that the site is actually ripping people off—with a 17% commission on every transaction and with the vast majority of options expiring worthless, the site makes more per ticket than any scalper does. A recent Forbes story covers a smaller competitor.

For you securities-law geeks out there, here’s the SEC’s no-action letter. I leave to others whether the site is accurately describing its activities. And, of course, the fact that one agency promises no action with respect to the securities laws is no guarantee that the aggressive Department of Justice will take no action with the gambling laws.

Update: Yosemite rockslide suit dismissed

Following up on our Aug. 24 post: “A federal judge threw out a $10-million wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the family of a young rock climber killed in a 1999 slide in Yosemite Valley, short-circuiting a legal battle that some climbers feared could threaten a mecca of the sport.” (Eric Bailey, “Suit by Climber’s Family Dismissed”, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 12).

“N.Y. Judge Refuses to Reverse Wrestling Referee’s Call” “New York Judge Thomas J. Spargo refused to second-guess the referee of a high school championship wrestling match last week, declining to ‘establish a precedent of reviewing and potentially reversing a referee’s judgment call from the distant ivory tower of a judge’s chambers.’ Several judges from the top of the state judicial system to the trial courts have expressed sentiments ranging from disappointment to disgust when competitors turn to the courts to resolve athletic disputes.” (John Caher, New York Law Journal, Dec. 13).

Update: East German athletes’ steroid suit

A court in Hamburg will hear the case (see Mar. 14) in which some 190 athletes from the former East Germany are seeking compensation for the damage done to their bodies by steroids administered by authorities under the pre-1989 Communist regime. The drugs were made by Jenapharm, at that time a state-owned concern, later bought by the Schering corporation, which is the target of the compensation demands. (Luke Harding, “Forgotten victims of East German doping take their battle to court”, The Guardian (U.K.), Nov. 1; “The Quest for Gold Left Lives in Ruins “, Deutsche Welle, Jun. 29).

Terrell Owens: Now Specter wants in

Sen. Arlen Specter has risen to the level of self-parody and “accused the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles of treating Terrell Owens unfairly, and might refer the matter to the antitrust subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee.” The AP story quotes a couple of experts as noting that there isn’t an antitrust problem in much more polite terms than I would have. (AP/ESPN, Nov. 29 (hat-tip L.S.)). Owens seems to provoke a lot of silliness: see Nov. 24 and links therein.

Terrell Owens update

An NFL arbitrator has upheld his suspension from the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles had not commented much to the press during the controversy, leaving the coverage relatively lopsided. The full opinion is on, and adds much detail showing the decision to be considerably more justified than press coverage had indicated—a worthy reminder the next time your local news gives a three-minute segment over to a plaintiff’s attorney’s unrebutted claim against a corporate defendant. Earlier Owens coverage: Nov. 14 and Jan. 27.

Ralph Nader and the Philadelphia Eagles

Ralph Nader is arguing that the Philadelphia Eagles’ decision to suspend star wide receiver Terrell Owens (for, inter alia, publicly criticizing the team and quarterback, shouting at coaches, a physical altercation with a teammate, and then failing to apologize) is consumer fraud because season-ticket holders had an expectation that Owens would play for the team, which barely lost the Super Bowl last year, and was an early favorite this year. (But what about all those New York Times subscribers who expected to read Judy Miller?) The suggestion rises to self-parody, though it exhibits the absurdity of modern consumer fraud law in that it isn’t crazier than suits that actually succeed. But I’m somewhat sanguine about Nader’s latest foray; if he’s tilting at the windmill of trying to make football coaching decisions litigable (Can a fan sue the Washington special teams coach for costing the team the game against Tampa Bay because it reduced the chance the team would go to the Super Bowl and the resale value of his season tickets?), it means he’s not spending time trying to wreck more important industries.

(Yes, I know that one shouldn’t blame the Washington special teams coach for losing the game. But it would be actionable under the Nader regime if a lawyer can find a fan who purchased tickets after hearing coaches say they were trying to avoid senseless penalties this season.)