Friday, November 03, 2000

Bengals push for arbitrator in ticket suit

Ticket-holders' lawyer to fight for jury trial

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Cincinnati Bengals want an arbitrator — not a jury — to settle a dispute with disgruntled season-ticket holders.

        Bengals attorney Robert Stachler has filed a motion to stay a lawsuit filed against the Bengals pending arbitration. A hearing on the motion has been scheduled for Nov. 15 in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court before Judge Robert Ruehlman.

        Mr. Stachler said Thursday that arbitration is a more appropriate way for settling disputes like this because it's less expensive and quicker than a trial.

        He added that when season-ticket holders bought their seat licenses, they entered into a contract with the Bengals and Hamilton County that “expressly states any dispute that arises over seat licensing or season tickets will be resolved by arbitration.”

        “We are merely asking for this contract to be enforced,” Mr. Stachler said.

        Cincinnati attorney Janet G. Abaray, who is representing Bengals fans, said she intends to fight the motion.

        “This is definitely a case that needs and deserves to be heard by a jury,” she said. “We feel strongly that this should be done in a public forum.”

        Season-ticket holder Glenn Reedy, of Clermont County's Miami Township, sued the Bengals and Hamilton County in September because he received less expensive and more distant seats in the new Paul Brown Stadium than the ones he claims he ordered.

        Mr. Reedy seeks

        compensation for himself and other fans affected by what the suit alleges is the Bengals' “breach of contract” and “negligent misrepresentation and fraud.”

        The highest-priced zones of seats were oversold, claims the suit, which is seeking damages of $300 to $500 per seat license for a total of several million dollars.

        The suit says fans were guaranteed seats in specific zones of the stadium when they bought personal seat licenses. Fans must buy seat licenses for the right to buy season tickets.

        Because the zones with the best seats were oversold, the suit claims, zones were redrawn. Then fans were shifted to less-choice zones but have yet to receive refunds for the difference.

        Ms. Abaray wants the Bengals to scrap the current seating arrangement at Paul Brown Stadium and reissue personal seat licenses and season tickets based on seniority as initially promised. She also wants the court to force the Bengals to give refunds to any fans who do not want to change their seats.

        Ms. Abaray expressed some disappointment that Hamilton County leaders and their attorneys have not stepped forward to side with fans. She said she fully expected the county to favor reimbursing fans since it kept most of the money from seat license sales. Ms. Abaray estimates the county is holding more than $5 million from fans who were overcharged for their seats.

        “The county has not contacted us in an attempt to settle this, and it has yet to take a position on the issue,” she said. “They have not sent their attorneys in to protect the fans by reimbursing them their money, and that concerns me greatly.”

        Hamilton County Administrator David Krings had little to say about the case, stating that it was in litigation.

        “The Bengals are working on a case-by-case basis to resolve this with individual ticket holders,” Mr. Krings said. “I really do believe that the Bengals are working in good faith to satisfy them. We'd like to give them the opportunity to accomplish that.”

       Enquirer reporter Dan Klepal contributed to this story.


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