Appeal to 9th Circuit for plaintiffs that felt duped from Pac-May fight

September 20, 2017

Late last month, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed the class action lawsuit by plaintiffs claiming that they were duped by the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight in May 2015 due to the fact Pacquiao did not disclose a previous shoulder injury.

Despite the order dismissing the case, the plaintiffs have filed an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  But first, let’s look at the facts and the district court opinion.

Order Dismissing Pacquiao-Mayweather Boxing Match PPV Litigation by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

As we know, Manny Pacquiao faced Floyd Mayweather at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Mayweather won via unanimous decision.  After the fight, Pacquiao indicated that he had an injury.  However, the facts would suggest that this was never disclosed prior to the fight.  In fact, on his pre-fight questionnaire, he did not indicate an issue with his shoulder.

Many believed that the injured shoulder was a factor in the outcome of the fight.  Those that paid for the fight on PPV ($100), bought a seat at the venue or watched on closed circuit or in a movie theatre were angered that they did not see the best Pacquiao and/or the injury was not disclosed.  Obviously, something like this has a trickle-down impact to the consumer but also to those that placed money on the fight.

Lawsuits were filed as a result and were subsequently consolidated to this court.  Plaintiffs allege that “Defendants were motivated by huge profits” to continue with the fight despite the alleged injury.  They claim that they affirmatively concealed the injury in promotion of the fight.

Attorneys for Pacquiao, Mayweather, Top Rank, Mayweather Promotions, and its related entitites filed a Motion to Dismiss the lawsuits.  On August 25th, the district court agreed with the defendants that this lawsuit should be dismissed.

The opinion emphasized that the legal system is not the proper place for unhappy fans to vent their anger over a result of a sporting event.  The court made a determination as to whether to determine the complaints per a “license approach “to assess the rights of fans that purchase a ticket to a sporting event.  Under this approach, purchasers are entitled to “nothing more than a revocable license” regardless of what transpires at the event.  However, the court noted that this specific issue was a novel occurrence and it had to determine whether it should apply this standard.

The court did cite to a ticketholder/PPV purchaser case from 2000 where Mike Tyson was sued after a fight between Tyson and Evander Holyfield.  You may recall that this was the bout where Tyson infamously bit Holyfield’s ear.  Plaintiffs in that case claimed that Tyson’s plan was to get disqualified if he could not win and this was a “premediated plan” to end the fight.  In that case, the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was dismissed and the appeal upheld the dismissal rationalizing that fans got what they paid for.

In addition to the “license approach,” the opinion discusses a set of cases which do not use the theory.  Instead, this line of cases have had plaintiffs assert their legal rights when sports teams allegedly lie to promote ticket sales.  Two lawsuits involve professional teams that were moving but did not tell their fan base and one case in which a team stated it was financially able to finish a hockey season but folded 13 games into the season.

So, the court determined which of these approaches it should take.  Either the “License approach” cases which resulted in no legally cognizable injury or the lawsuits against sports teams which reflects a legally cognizable injury.

The court found the “License approach” was the correct application since the alleged omissions and misrepresentations were based on athletic competition (i.e, concealing Pacquiao’s injury).

From the opinion:

The Court holds that a misrepresentation or omission implicates the core of athletic competition, and therefore does not constitute a cognizable injury to a legally protected interest under the license approach, if it is related to: (A) competitive strategy, or (B) the quality or outcome of competitive performance.

It’s also noteworthy that the court argues public policy as to why it ruled against the Plaintiffs here:

Thus, allowing sports fans to sue over the vicissitudes of competitive sports could destroy the
very thing that makes sports fandom so special. A holding in favor of Plaintiffs in this case could be construed to require near total transparency in sports, whereby any inflated, unreliable, or cryptic prevent statements would beget lawsuits. Gone would be the days of headstrong athletes declaring their complete readiness to destroy their opponents. Athletes would never again publicly predict that they will prevail, or even conclude that an event will be exciting. Sports teams and athletes might even be required to disclose the weak spots in their game plans or preparations before every event for all to see (including their opponents).

The judicial opinion is highlighted by a cite to a Joe Rogan podcast related to the uncertainty of sports.  The court commented that the “unpredictability and uncertainty” of competitive sports is important to it.  The point is that the unexpected nature of sport is inherent in sport and expected by fans.

Payout Perspective:

At first read, you wonder why Plaintiffs have decided to appeal this case to the 9th Circuit.  There’s a lot of money that goes into an appeal and the success rate seems in doubt.  However, if you read the opinion closely, you can tell that the district court is making up their own law as they go.  Perhaps that’s a little strong, but they are definitely applying a legal standard they feel is right for this circumstance.  While the “license approach” has been used to decide cases in disgruntled fan lawsuits in the past, there is no real precedent setting case (as the court notes in the opinion).  Thus there’s a line of cases which could be helpful to Plaintiffs but is not applied.  Moreover, the public policy as argued by the Court gives us the old “slippery slope” argument which I personally take offense.  Even if you think that this is ridiculous to follower, there is a telling piece of law here that may be more important than whether someone gets their $100 back.

 

3 Responses to “Appeal to 9th Circuit for plaintiffs that felt duped from Pac-May fight”

  1. d on September 21st, 2017 9:28 AM

    With guys like Ward and Klitschko retiring, boxing is desperate for some more mma crossovers. Hahaha.

  2. fight fan on September 21st, 2017 6:26 PM

    Not really, Boxing holds all PPV records. Mctapper couldn’t even sell 2 million PPVS on a single show in his mma career.

  3. d on September 22nd, 2017 7:55 AM

    Actually, no, the UFC has dominated the annual ppv records and now, they also as a boxing promoter share the record with Mayweather. Hahaha.

    They need some more mma fighters coming over so they can exist.

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