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Out-of-court settlement sought over Super Bowl seats

ARLINGTON -- An attorney representing ticket holders who were either denied seats or assigned ones with obstructed views at Super Bowl XLV said Monday that he's working to reach an out-of-court settlement with the National Football League, Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys.

Attorney Michael J. Avenatti sent a letter on Saturday to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell seeking a meeting to "amicably resolve this dispute." The attorney's disclosure that he has reached out to the NFL came on the same day that the city released more records regarding the temporary-seating controversy during the Super Bowl.

Avenatti said affected fans want full reimbursement for their ticket and travel expenses, which is far greater than the compensation offered by the league. Hundreds of ticket holders have contacted Avenatti's law firm wanting to join the class action lawsuit filed in federal court last week, which is seeking more than $5 million in damages, he said.

Avenatti said he has not received a response to his letter.

"I welcome a meeting with Jerry Jones and the commissioner so we can sit down and get this resolved short of full-blown litigation," Avenatti said.

The Cowboys and the NFL have declined to comment on the pending litigation.

On Super Bowl Sunday, the Arlington Fire Department deemed about 1,250 of the 13,000 temporary seats unsafe for fans. The Cowboys' contractor, Seating Solutions, reportedly walked off the job just hours before kickoff without fully installing handrails or guardrails or addressing other code violations.

Documents released by the city Monday outline the difficulty that Arlington fire and building officials had in getting the contractor to meet agreed-upon deadlines or provide documentation to make sure that the temporary seating in the end zones and the concourse would be completed and certified safe by game day.

City leaders have said it did not appear that Seating Solutions had enough workers or materials to finish the job and that fire inspectors found numerous problems during the monthlong construction.

"My team has reported to me a series of concerns regarding the construction of the temporary seating in Cowboys' Stadium for Super Bowl 45," Arlington Fire Chief Don Crowson wrote in an e-mail to Cowboys Stadium General Manager Jack Hill on Jan. 27. "I'm requesting your assistance in ensuring a safe and successful Super Bowl by providing my team with an 'certified engineering letter' detailing the structural stability of the temporary stands/seating areas."

Crowson had requested that confirmation by Jan. 29. However, it didn't arrive until game day, while stadium workers were still frantically assembling some of the seats.

While most the temporary seats were allowed to be used, the city brought in additional fire staff to keep fans out of the seats that were deemed unsafe. About 850 people whose seats were unusable were given better or comparable seats elsewhere, but 400 fans had to watch the game on monitors or use standing-room platforms.

Fans were not told about the seating problems until they arrived. Some were placed in temporary seats that had "significantly obstructed views."

"Approximately 400 fans ended up standing up in the basement club and watching the game on television," Avenatti said. "Hundreds of fans never saw one live play after traveling thousands of miles for the Super Bowl."

To fans who had no seat, the league has offered their choice of a $2,400 cash refund -- three times the face value of their ticket -- or free round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations and a ticket to a future Super Bowl. To the roughly 2,000 fans who waited for hours to get into their temporary seats, the league has offered either a refund of the face value for their ticket or a ticket to a future Super Bowl.

However, Avenatti said, the average fan spent $7,000 to $10,000 to attend the Super Bowl. One woman seeking to join the suit, for example, reportedly spent $37,000 to bring five relatives to the game, but all were denied seats because of the safety issues, he said.

"I have yet to speak to any fan that is being unreasonable. Every one of the fans wants their out-of-pocket expenses to be reimbursed," Avenatti said.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639

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