Friday, April 06, 2001

Deal near in lawsuit over seats

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It appears a settlement will be announced next week in the lawsuit that disgruntled Bengals fans, unhappy with their seats inside Paul Brown Stadium, filed against the team and Hamilton County.

        Attorneys for all sides met in private for more than four hours Thursday negotiating the settlement. They also met in private for more than four hours last week.

        None of the attorneys would comment on the negotiations Thursday, but Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman announced a series of actions that point toward a settlement being close at hand:

        • A preliminary settlement hearing is scheduled for Tuesday. This hearing will be held in open court.

        • A “fairness hearing,” which will allow any party in the lawsuit to object to terms of the settlement, is scheduled for May 1.

        • A hearing to certify the lawsuit as a class action, previously scheduled for May 8, has been canceled.

        Judge Ruehlman said “significant progress” had been made toward the settlement.

        When told that was the same characterization lawyers said after the private settlement conference last week, the judge replied: “Yeah, but this a really significant step.”

        The dispute centers on season-ticket holders who purchased seat licenses sold by the county. The licenses gave them the right to buy season tickets in the Bengals' new stadium.

        Each license, which cost between $150 and $1,500, allowed the purchaser to buy one season ticket in a specific section of the stadium. But some fans claim they were assigned seats in less desirable sections of the stadium than they paid for.

        Some fans want a partial refund, some want a full refund and some simply want a new seat.

        Janet Abaray, attorney for the fans, has said she thinks it will cost $3 million or more to settle the suit.


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