Current and former season ticket holders to the games of the Cincinnati Bengals picked up a key victory last month when Ohio’s 1st District Court of Appeals decided to hear an appeal levied from a lower court, which had ruled that a dispute between the plaintiffs and Bengals must go first to arbitration.
In a suit filed earlier in the summer, the plaintiffs, represented by Janet G. Abaray in the Cincinnati office of Lopez, Hodes, Restaino, Milman & Skikos, alleged that the Bengals modified the rules associated with the purchase of the season tickets after the plaintiffs had purchased the tickets and then improperly charged them tens of thousands of dollars after they canceled their season tickets.
“The Cincinnati Bengals unilaterally created a new document, entitled ‘Terms of Club Seat License’ which contained material terms that directly contradicted the contract with the Club Seat purchasers,” according to the complaint.
The NFL club has countered that the plaintiffs and other fans were given a discount in exchange for making a commitment, through the Club Seat License, to buy their season tickets for six, eight or 10 years.
While the appeal is considered, the court informed the team that they should not communicate with the ticket holders, especially any efforts to collect payment.
The case made headlines in Cincinnati because one fan, Douglas Menne, told the local paper that, after canceling his season tickets, he received a letter advising him that he owed the team $46,180, or the cost of his four seats over eight years.
But it is not the first battle Abaray has had with the Bengals.
In 2001, she represented season-ticket holders who claimed that they received less desirable seats than promised. The plaintiffs in that case agreed to a $6 million settlement, while the Bengals procured a promise that all future disputes with its season ticket holders would go to arbitration.