Tuesday, November 07, 2000

Commission sides with Bengals against ticket suit

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hamilton County commissioners have sided with the Cincinnati Bengals, saying that disgruntled season ticket holders should try to work out their dispute with the team or an arbitrator rather than the courts.

        Commissioners Monday notified the attorney for the ticket license holders that they have filed a motion in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court requesting a stay of a class action lawsuit against the football team.

        “The county agrees that license holders should get what they paid for. But a class action is no way to address those concerns,” attorneys for commissioners said in their motion.

        County attorneys said ticket holders, who claim they paid for seats in specific zones of the stadium only to be given less desirable seating, should try to work out their dispute with the Bengals. Failing that, out-of-court arbitration should be tried.

        “The Bengals have a significant interest in keeping its ticket holders happy and should be given an opportunity to resolve the matter in a way that is best for all fans,” said county attorneys.

        But the attorney representing ticket holders in the class action lawsuit blasted the county's action as unfair to hundreds of fans who would be covered under a class action lawsuit.

        “This is an issue that impacts a lot of people, and the county and Bengals have taken a cavalier attitude,” said Janet Abaray, who filed a lawsuit against the Bengals and county on Sept. 15.

        Six ticket holders are named in the current lawsuit, but Ms. Abaray said that more than 200 have contacted her office since the lawsuit was filed and that more than 1,000 seats in Paul Brown Stadium are at stake.

        The suit seeks attorney fees and punitive damages and asks for damages of $300 to $500 per seat license, for a total of several million dollars. County commissioners were unavailable to comment.

        Bob Stachler, lead attorney for the Bengals, said the team is pleased with the county's stance favoring arbitration.

        “That is a very common remedy. I would think the county had no other alternative but to join in ... in making a request so that all legal action is stayed so that arbitration provisions can be invoked,” Mr. Stachler said.

        But Greg Cappel, season ticket holder and one of the lawsuit's named plaintiffs, said he was disappointed in the county's action.

        “Sounds like the same old runaround,” said the Delhi Township man who has been a season ticket holder for more than a decade.

        “The county is not willing to fight the Bengals,” he said.

        All three parties in the legal dispute are scheduled to appear at a hearing Nov. 15 before Hamil ton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman. The judge will rule on whether arbitration should be tried.


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