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7th Circuit: Colts not required to renew season tickets

June 23, 2017

An Indianapolis Colts season tickets holder did not automatically have the right to transfer ownership of his tickets from one season to the next, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday in a diversity suit against the professional football team.

In the case of Yehuda Frager v. Indianapolis Colts, Inc., 16-4183, ticket broker Yehuda Frager had purchased 94 season tickets in 2015, pursuant to a deal that allowed season ticket holders to transfer their ticket rights upon payment of a fee equal to 30 percent of the sale price. However, when Frager requested to transfer the rights to tickets for the 2016 season, the Colts denied him, prompting the instant suit.

Frager claims the football team converted the tickets and that he is, thus, entitled to reimbursement. But Judge William T. Lawrence of the U.S. District Court for the Southern Indiana disagreed, dismissing Frager’s case last November.

In the Colts’ contract with season ticket purchasers, there is a clause that states “the Colts reserve the right…to reject any order, transfer, or renewal.” Though there may have been an expectation that he could renew his 2015 season tickets in 2016, 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner wrote Thursday that Frager and other ticket holders have no right to future season tickets unless the Colts sold them that right, a possibility foreclosed by the language of the ticket contract.

To demonstrate the 7th Circuit’s logic, Posner pointed to a 20th century opinion from then-Chief Judge of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Emery v. Boston Terminal Co., 59 N.E. 763 (Mass. 1901). In that case, the plaintiffs had been tenants of a property obtained through eminent domain by the defendants. The lease had expired, and while the tenants believed the owners would renew it, Holmes said such a belief represented a “speculation on a chance, not a legal right.”

“And so it is here,” Posner wrote. “Frager had a reasonable expectation that he’d be able to renew his season tickets for 2016. That purchasers of season tickets are willing to pay a 30 percent transfer fee in the online marketplace indicates that the expectation of renewal added to the salable value of season tickets, but given the words of hi contracts with the Colts, it was merely ‘a speculation on a change, not a legal right.’”

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