If it seemed to be too good to be true, perhaps that’s because it was.
We’ve reviewed a copy of the lawsuit filed Thursday by Cleveland-area businessman Ken Lanci against the Browns and the rest of the NFL. Though the application of external pressure like Lanci’s lawsuit could force the league and the players to work out their differences, Lanci’s lawsuit severely is lacking in merit, in our opinion.
For starters, and as pointed out in a Friday item written by Patrick O’Donnell of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, no violation of Lanci’s Personal Seat Licenses will occur until games are missed.
The error lands in the lap of the Lanci’s lawyers. Instead of alleging that the PSL agreement already has been breached and that Lanci already has been damaged, the lawsuit should have sought a declaratory judgment regarding the legality of the lockout, along with both a permanent injunction preventing any lockout and a preliminary injunction aimed at blocking the lockout while the litigation proceeds.
From Lanci’s perspective, however, a preliminary injunction wouldn’t be relevant until August, when the first preseason game is missed. Even then, it would be difficult for Lanci to prove that he will be “irreparably harmed” (a key factor in obtaining a preliminary injunction) by the fact that the games aren’t played. All the Browns have to do to make Lanci whole is refund the price of his tickets and compensate him for a corresponding percentage of the three-year PSL that Lanci has renewed multiple times since first buying the seats in 1997.
Then there’s the fact that the Club Seat License Agreement expressly contemplates the loss of games to a work stoppage.
Paragraph 10 of the Terms and Conditions, titled “Strikes, Damages, Destruction, Etc.,” states that, in the event of “any strike or other labor disturbance which results on the cancellation of any Browns Games at the Stadium,” the PSL holder will receive credit for such games against his or her next purcahse of the seat license. This policy represents fair and appropriate handling of lost games (even though it excludes preseason games lost due to a labor disturbance), and the presence of the language makes Lanci’s lawsuit, in our view, weak at best, downright frivolous at worst.
In the end, it’s nothing more than a poorly-executed publicity stunt. Though the legal system allows the Browns and the NFL to attempt to pursue compensation from Lanci and his lawyers of all expenses incurred in defending against — and undoubtedly beating back — the lawsuit, the league likely will stage a simple yet zealous defense, secure victory, and move on. There’s no reason to make Lanci and/or his lawyers into martyrs by forcing them to compensate the league for all the time and money spent winning such a weak case.
Besides, filing a request for legal fees would expose to the world the obscene amount of money that the league pays its lawyers for each hour of work.
So thanks, Ken Lanci, for giving fans the temporary sense that there’s something we can do to end the lockout. Your best move going forward will be to drop the case and spend the money instead on billboards, buttons, and/or bumper stickers.