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Judge initially dismisses ticket broker suit against Colts

November 10, 2016

A district court has dismissed a lawsuit against the Indianapolis Colts after deciding the team had the legal right not to renew an out-of-state ticket broker’s season tickets, but the court left the case open for further action by inviting the broker to file an amended claim on stronger legal ground.

Judge William T. Lawrence of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District Indiana on Wednesday dismissed without prejudice the case of Yehuda Frager v. Indianapolis Colts, Inc., 1:16-cv-632.

In the granting of the Colts’ motion, Lawrence noted he dismissed the case without prejudice “in order to give the plaintiff an opportunity to file an amended complaint that corrects the deficiencies in the current complaint” within 14 days.

Matthew Topic, the Chicago attorney representing Frager, told Indiana Lawyer he and his client intend to appeal Lawrence’s decision. “We think that this is an important case for season ticket holder rights,” Topic said.

In the complaint filed in district court in March, Frager, a Pennsylvania ticket broker, claimed the Colts did not let him renew 94 season tickets he had bought in 2015 for the upcoming season, despite the fact that he had paid more than $75,000 for the tickets. Some local brokers — who claim to have heard that Frager’s tickets were redistributed to another broker — said the team’s decision seems to be an attempt to hold greater control over the secondary ticket market.

Frager’s complaint alleged that refusing to renew his season tickets constituted conversion of property that rightfully belonged to him. However, the invoice Frager paid stated that “each ticket purchased grants a revocable license to entry into Lucas Oil Stadium,” and continued in saying “The Colts reserve the rights to allocate tickets and seat locations and to reject any order, transfer, or renewal.”

The Colts organization moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Frager failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted. Specifically, according to the Wednesday decision, the team said Frager could not claim an ownership or possessory interest in the 2016 season tickets and that the language in the invoice was evidence of that fact.

In response, Frager pointed to the cases of In re I.D. Craig Service Corporation, 138 B.R. 490 (Bankr. W.D. Pa. 1992) and In re Platt, 292 B.R. 12 (Bankr. D. Mass. 2003), two cases in which bankruptcy courts found that a season ticket holder had an enforceable right to renew season tickets to the extent that the tickets were considered the property of a bankruptcy estate.

But in his granting of the Colts’ motion to dismiss, Lawrence wrote that both of those cases were distinct from Frager’s case because they involved situations in which season ticket holders automatically received offers to purchase tickets or renewal letters each year, which “create(d) a property right in the season ticket holder.”

In contrast, Indianapolis Colts, Inc. cited numerous cases that found that season ticket holders do not have  a right to renew, and the language on the Colts’ season ticket invoice makes it clear that the team has the right to reject renewal, Lawrence wrote.

“While a season ticket holder may be permitted to transfer any rights he may have, those rights are created by contract,” the judge wrote in his decision. “The Colts simply are not contractually obligated to renew a season ticket holder’s account each year.”

 

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