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Law

‘Nonsensical’: NFL Blasts Massive Jury Award in Latest Sunday Ticket Case Filings

  • The league has asked the judge to throw out the verdict or order a new trial.
  • Its motions will be heard July 31 in California.
Stadium with NFL logo at the mid-field line
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has started the formal process of trying to get a $14 billion judgment against it thrown out in a pair of legal filings.

In a stunning verdict last month, a California jury ordered the league to pay $4.7 billion to bars, restaurants, and residential customers who, it said, had overpaid for the Sunday Ticket package in recent years. Under federal antitrust law, that judgment is tripled to more than $14 billion.

The judge in the case, Philip Gutierrez, had been critical of the plaintiffs during the course of the trial, accusing them of overcomplicating the case.

“This case has turned into 25 hours of depositions and gobbledygook,” he said last month. “This case has gone in a direction it shouldn’t have gone.”

Despite that, the jury still found for the plaintiffs in a landmark verdict. But Gutierrez has the power to throw out the award as a matter of law. (Regardless of what he rules, either the league or the plaintiffs will certainly appeal if they lose.)

The league’s first post-verdict motion, filed July 3, again asks Gutierrez to either dismiss the award or order a new trial.

“The verdict in this case is at once among the largest in American history and also among the least defensible,” lawyers for the league wrote. “The damages award is nonsensical: It represents the sum total of discounts that class members received—a number hastily calculated by a jury that quickly rejected Plaintiffs’ models. … None of this is appropriate, and the Court’s intervention is needed now.” 

In addition to asking for a judgment, the NFL also requested a new trial. It claimed that the jury’s foreperson had an “improper financial stake in the outcome of the litigation.” The juror, whom the NFL objected to during the trial, paid for a Sunday Ticket subscription for someone else in their household. But, the league wrote, “The Court rejected the challenge because Juror 7’s household member was not a class member.”

In order to be a member of the class, individual subscribers had to have subscribed between June 2011 and February ’23, and they had to have subscribed through DirecTV.

On Tuesday, the NFL filed a brief objection to the judgment, and asked for the judgment to be stayed until it was fully resolved. “Entry of partial judgment is legally improper and makes no practical sense,” the league’s lawyers wrote.

Though Gutierrez had appeared to be favoring the league late in the trial, the first motion ripped his instructions to the jury. The league argued that under what it says is settled law, Gutierrez should have included the word “substantially” when instructing the jury to find whether the “competitive harm” of the Sunday Ticket pricing “outweighs the competitive benefit” under antitrust law. The league claims that these faulty jury instructions merit a new trial.

Gutierrez is set to hear the league’s motions July 31 in Los Angeles.

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