It’s Round 2 for lawyers suing on behalf of disgruntled boxing fans.
At least nine class actions have been filed over the Aug. 26 duel between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. Similar suits were brought after a 2015 matchup between Mayweather and Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, dubbed the “Fight of the Century,” in which lawyers alleged that the event’s promoters failed to disclose a previous injury that led to Pacquiao’s defeat. This time, the cases allege that consumers who paid $99.95 to view the fight through live streaming couldn’t see the bout at all due to technical problems.
“The new cases are much more straightforward insofar as no one is questioning any misrepresentation regarding the event that was staged,” said Hart Robinovitch, a partner at Zimmerman Reed in Scottsdale, Arizona, who has filed two of the cases and served as lead plaintiffs counsel in the litigation over the 2015 fight. “It’s just simply a question of someone buying something and not getting what they paid for, which was the ability to see anything. Our clients stared at blank screens that night.”
Showtime has moved to coordinate the cases into multidistrict litigation in New York, where it’s headquartered, according to an Oct. 3 motion filed before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. Most plaintiffs attorneys support coordination but prefer Nevada, where the boxing match took place in Las Vegas.
The MDL panel is set to hear arguments on coordination on Nov. 30 in St. Louis.
The case is the latest to attempt to bring consumer fraud claims over sporting events that left fans less than thrilled. In general, the cases have struggled to overcome the presumption that fans got what they paid for.
On Aug. 25, a federal judge in Los Angeles dismissed the multidistrict litigation over the fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao.
The new lawsuits allege that consumers who paid to watch the fight via cable or satellite, or through the UFC Fight Pass or Showtime mobile apps, couldn’t access it at all, experienced delays of about 50 minutes or suffered other technical problems.
But the legal fight could be over before it’s begun.
Showtime, which is a subsidiary of CBS Corp., has already filed motions to compel arbitration in two of the four cases in which it is a defendant, citing agreements signed by consumers that had class action waivers. A plaintiffs lawyer in one of those cases has insisted that the arbitration agreement was buried in the agreement.
Showtime and its lawyer, Yehudah Buchweitz of Weil, Gotshal & Manges in New York, did not respond to a request for comment.
Plaintiffs attorney Timothy Peter, a partner in the Pennsylvania office of Faruqi & Faruqi, who has sued defendants other than Showtime, argued in an Oct. 24 motion that the arbitration agreements demonstrate why the cases shouldn’t be coordinated. He wrote that “plaintiffs in those actions face significant factual issues concerning the applicability and enforceability of those arbitration agreements.”
His case, and four other lawsuits, name two companies with which Showtime contracted to provide the live stream: NeuLion Inc., an internet service provider based in Plainview, New York, and Las Vegas sports promoter Zuffa LLC, a division of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment LLC that does business as UFC, or Ultimate Fighting Championship.
In an Aug. 29 post on Twitter, UFC president Dana White acknowledged the live streaming problems “because of NeuLion’s technical issues” and vowed to begin issuing refunds.
The UFC defendants have scheduled a Nov. 28 mediation session in Las Vegas. They argued in an Oct. 12 motion that the cases should be coordinated in Nevada, where consumers signed contracts with them under Nevada law. They also suggested U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon, who has never overseen an MDL, should be assigned the judge—an appeal to the panel’s increasing desire to diversify the pool of MDL judges.
NeuLion attorney Jura Zibas, a New York partner at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, who also supported Nevada, and Jeffrey Jacobson of Kelley Drye & Warren in New York, who represents the UFC defendants, did not respond to requests for comment.
The mediation session might not be limited to the UFC defendants, however. Attorney Mark Geragos of Geragos & Geragos in Los Angeles also supported Nevada as a venue, even though he filed a case against Showtime and one against Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC on behalf of fans who paid to live stream the fight to their Play Station 4.
“Although the UFC defendants are not defendants in the plaintiffs’ cases, it would be efficient to mediate the Showtime cases with the plaintiffs and defendants in the UFC actions in one mediation,” he wrote in an Oct. 24 motion.