Justia U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Entertainment & Sports Law
In Re: NFL Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation
The Settlement Agreement between the NFL and eligible retired NFL players arose out of a class action based on findings that professional football players are at a significantly increased risk for serious brain injury. The Agreement is intended to provide monetary awards to former players who receive a qualifying diagnosis after following a specified protocol. The Agreement’s claims administrator and the district court created and adopted a set of clarifying, revised rules relating to how players can obtain a qualifying diagnosis.Several retired NFL players or their estates challenged those revised rules, arguing that they amended the Agreement, and alternatively, that the court abused its discretion by adopting the four revised rules. The Third Circuit upheld the rules, noting that the Agreement provided for the court’s continuing jurisdiction and specifies the duties of the claims administrator. The revised rules are permissible clarifications created for the Agreement’s successful administration—for example, to prevent fraud—and were not amendments. They were created, in part, because the claims administrator reviewed many claim submissions and noted that there were certain “clients of a law firm traveling thousands of miles to see the same physician rather than those available to them in their hometowns and excessively high numbers and rates of payable diagnoses from those doctors.” View "In Re: NFL Players' Concussion Injury Litigation" on Justia Law
National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Governor of New Jersey
The 1992 federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), 28 U.S.C. 3702, prohibited governmental entities from involvement in gambling concerning competitive sports. New Jersey’s 2012 Sports Wagering Act authorized sports gambling. NCAA and professional sports leagues (Appellees) filed suit. The district court entered a temporary restraining order (TRO) barring the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NJTHA) from conducting sports gambling, finding that the state law violated PASPA. The court required Appellees to post a $1.7 million bond as security. On appeal, NJTHA successfully challenged the constitutionality of PASPA in the Supreme Court. On remand, NJTHA unsuccessfully sought to recover on the bond. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded. NJTHA was “wrongfully enjoined” within the meaning of Federal Rule 65(c) and no good cause existed to deny bond damages. PASPA provided the only basis for enjoining NJTHA from conducting sports gambling. The Supreme Court ultimately held that that law is unconstitutional; NJTHA had a right to conduct sports gambling all along. There was no change in the law; NJTHA enjoyed success on the merits and is entitled to recover provable damages up to the bond amount. View "National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Governor of New Jersey" on Justia Law
In Re: National Football League Players Concussion Injury Litigation.
Multidistrict litigation was formed to handle claims filed by former professional football players against the NFL based on concussion-related injuries. The district court (Judge Brody) approved a settlement agreement, effective January 2017. The Third Circuit affirmed; the Supreme Court denied certiorari. Under the agreement, approximately 200,000 class members surrendered their claims in exchange for proceeds from an uncapped settlement fund. Class members had to submit medical records reflecting a qualifying diagnosis. The Claims Administrator determines whether the applicant qualifies for an award. In March 2017, the claims submission process opened for class members who had been diagnosed with a qualifying illness before January 7, 2017. Other class members had to receive a diagnosis from a practitioner approved through the settlement Baseline Assessment Program (BAP). Class members could register for BAP appointments beginning in June 2017. While waiting to receive their awards, hundreds of class members entered into cash advance agreements with litigation funding companies, purporting to “assign” their rights to settlement proceeds in exchange for immediate cash. Class members did not assign their legal claims against the NFL. Judge Brody retained jurisdiction over the administration of the settlement agreement, which included an anti-assignment provision.Class counsel advised Judge Brody that he was concerned about predatory lending. Judge Brody ordered class members to inform the Claims Administrator of all assignment agreements, and purported to void all such agreements, directing a procedure under which funding companies could accept rescission and return of the principal amount they had advanced. The Third Circuit vacated. Despite having the authority to void prohibited assignments, the court went too far in voiding the cash advance agreements and voiding contractual provisions that went only to a lender’s right to receive funds after the player acquired them. View "In Re: National Football League Players Concussion Injury Litigation." on Justia Law
Tanksley v. Daniels
In 2005, Tanksley, a Philadelphia actor and producer, created a three-episode television pilot, Cream, for which he received a copyright. In 2015, Fox Television debuted a new series, Empire, from award-winning producer and director Lee Daniels. Tanksley sued, claiming that Empire infringed on his copyright of Cream. The district court found no substantial similarity between the two shows and dismissed. The Third Circuit affirmed. Superficial similarities notwithstanding, Cream and Empire are not substantially similar as a matter of law. The shared premise of the shows—an African-American, male record executive— is unprotectable. These characters fit squarely within the class of “prototypes” to which copyright protection has never extended. Considering the protectable elements of Cream, “no reasonable jury, properly instructed, could find that the two works are substantially similar.” View "Tanksley v. Daniels" on Justia Law
Finkelman v. National Football League
In 2014, Super Bowl XLVIII was held at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium. Finkelman alleges that the NFL has a policy of withholding 99% of Super Bowl tickets from the general public; 75% of the withheld tickets are split among NFL teams and 25% of tickets are for companies, broadcast networks, media sponsors, the host committee, and other “league insiders.” The 1% of tickets for public purchase are sold through a lottery system. A person has to enter by the deadline, be selected as a winner, and choose to actually purchase a ticket. Finkelman purchased tickets on the secondary market for $2,000 per ticket, although these tickets had a face value of $800 each. He did not enter the lottery to seek tickets offered at face value but filed a putative class action under New Jersey’s Ticket Law, N.J. Stat. 56:8-35.1: It shall be an unlawful practice for a person, who has access to tickets to an event prior to the tickets’ release for sale to the general public, to withhold those tickets from sale to the general public in an amount exceeding 5% of all available seating. The Third Circuit concluded that Finkelman had standing based on the plausible economic facts he pleaded, but deferred action on the merits pending decision by the Supreme Court of New Jersey on a pending petition for certification of questions of state law. View "Finkelman v. National Football League" on Justia Law
In re: NFL Players Concussion Injury Litig.
In 2011, former professional football players sued the NFL and Riddell, Inc., claiming that the NFL failed to take reasonable actions to protect them from the chronic risks of head injuries in football, and that Riddell, an equipment manufacturer, should be liable for the defective design of helmets. In 2012, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated the cases in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which, in 2014, approved a class action settlement that covered over 20,000 retired players and released all concussion-related claims against the NFL. There were 202 opt-outs. Objectors argued that class certification was improper and that the settlement was unfair. The Third Circuit affirmed, stating: “This settlement will provide nearly $1 billion in value to the class of retired players. It is a testament to the players, researchers, and advocates who have worked to expose the true human costs of a sport so many love. Though not perfect, it is fair.” View "In re: NFL Players Concussion Injury Litig." on Justia Law
Whitehead v. Pullman Group LLC
Singer-songwriters John Whitehead and Gene McFadden were “an integral part of the 1970s Philadelphia music scene. In 2002, Pullman approached them about purchasing their song catalogue. The parties signed a contract but never finalized the sale. Pullman claims he discovered tax liens while conducting due diligence and that the matter was never resolved. Whitehead and McFadden passed away in 2004 and 2006, respectively. Pullman became embroiled in disputes with their estates over ownership of the song catalogue. The parties eventually agreed to arbitration. Pullman, unhappy with the ruling, unsuccessfully moved to vacate the arbitration award on the ground that the panel had committed legal errors that made it impossible for him to present a winning case by applying the Dead Man’s Statute, which disqualifies parties interested in litigation from testifying about personal transactions or communications with deceased or mentally ill persons.” The Third Circuit affirmed, stating that the arbitrators did not misapply the law, but that legal error alone is not a sufficient basis to vacate the results of an arbitration in any case. View "Whitehead v. Pullman Group LLC" on Justia Law
Finkelman v. Nat’l Football League
The Ticket Law, N.J. Stat. 56:8-35.1, part of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, says: It shall be an unlawful practice for a person, who has access to tickets to an event prior to the tickets’ release for sale to the general public, to withhold those tickets from sale to the general public in an amount exceeding 5% of all available seating for the event. The Consumer Fraud Act permits private plaintiffs to sue any person who violates the Act and causes them to suffer ascertainable damages. Plaintiffs wanted to attend Super Bowl XLVIII, which was held in New Jersey in 2014. One plaintiff bought two tickets on the resale market, allegedly for much more than face price. They assert that the NFL’s method of selling tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII violated the Ticket Law and resulted in unjust enrichment. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal. Neither plaintiff has constitutional standing to bring this case. Otherwise, anyone who purchased a Super Bowl ticket on the resale market would have standing to sue in federal court based on nothing more than conjectural assertions of causation and injury. Article III requires more. The court declined to interpret the Ticket Law’s meaning. View "Finkelman v. Nat'l Football League" on Justia Law
Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n v. Governor of N.J.
The 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), 28 U.S.C. 3701, provides: It shall be unlawful for a governmental entity to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize or for a person to sponsor, operate, advertise, or promote, pursuant to the law or compact of a governmental entity, a lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting, gambling, or wagering scheme based competitive games in which amateur or professional athletes participate, or are intended to participate, or on one or more performances of such athletes in such games. PASPA exempts state-sponsored sports wagering in Nevada and sports lotteries in Oregon and Delaware, and had an exception for New Jersey if New Jersey were to enact a sports gambling scheme within one year of PASPA’s enactment. New Jersey did not do so. After voters approved a sports-wagering constitutional amendment, New Jersey enacted the Sports Wagering Act in 2012, providing for sports wagering at casinos and racetracks, under a comprehensive regulatory scheme. Sports leagues sued to enjoin the 2012 Law.The district court held that PASPA was constitutional and enjoined implementation of the 2012 Law. The Third Circuit affirmed. PASPA, by its terms, prohibits states from authorizing by law sports gambling, and the 2014 Law does exactly that. View "Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n v. Governor of N.J." on Justia Law
In re: NFL Players Concussion Injury Litigation
Thousands of retired professional football players sued the National Football League and other defendants alleging primarily that the defendants failed to take reasonable actions to protect players from the risks associated with concussive and sub-concussive head injuries. The cases were consolidated and the district court “preliminarily approved” a proposed class-action settlement agreement and “conditionally certified for settlement purposes only” the settlement class and subclasses. Seven retired professional football players who object to the proposed settlement agreement and class certification, filed a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f) petition for permission to appeal. The Third Circuit dismissed finding that the order was not an “order granting or denying class-action certification” under the plain text of the rule permitting interlocutory review. View "In re: NFL Players Concussion Injury Litigation" on Justia Law