Attorney and New Orleans Saints superfan Antonio “Tony” LeMon recently won a trial court ruling in Louisiana permitting him to proceed with his lawsuit against the NFL regarding the blown pass interference call in the NFC Conference game played between the Los Angeles Rams and the Saints alleging fraud, unjust enrichment and “detrimental reliance.”
The NFL appealed Judge Nicole Sheppard’s decision to the Louisiana Appellate court and lost again.
On Monday, a scheduling conference was held and the depositions of NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell and three of the officials who officiated the game were tentatively set for sometime in September.
Naturally since the the game involved our Rams, 3K called upon me as a lawyer and Rams superfan “The Professor” to find out what the heck is going on here.
So I picked up the phone and called Mr. LeMon.
How the case can proceed
There are fifty states in our Union. The only state that does not follow “common law” (being case law setting precedent) is Louisiana as a former French territory. Thus, cases like this which came before this one, filed in any other state or federal court are normally tossed out shortly after filing doesn’t work in Louisiana since each case is decided independently without reference to “common law” precedent.
In fact in ruling against the NFL, the Louisiana Appellate Court found no reason to divert from Judge Nicole Sheppard’s “well reasoned” decision.
This makes sense, from a purely legal perspective.I can’t quarrel with the court's decision.
The merits of the action
Mr. LeMon reiterated to me that what he is seeking is the “truth.”
What is the truth behind the no-call? I mean, the play has been viewed millions of times bringing joy to Rams fans and heartbreak to the Saints fans.
Mr. LeMon’s stated to me his goal is to prove the NFL “knowingly” made the decision not call pass interference which he intends to prove through circumstantial evidence that can only be obtained through the discovery process, e.g. depositions, requests for production of documents, etc.
As silly as this may appear on the surface, what if he’s right and the outcome of the game was predetermined before it was played?
We can viscerally react and say that’s impossible, but the search for the truth is what the discovery process is all about. Once again from a legal perspective, I have no quarrel with allowing Mr. LeMon to undertake a search for the truth even if its down an expensive empty rabbit hole.
I can say that I know if the shoe were on the other foot and a non-call costs the Rams a berth in the Super Bowl, I’d be right where Mr. LeMon is and I wouldn’t care how much it cost me.
The NFL is a business
The NFL is a business. As a result, it should be held accountable like every other business is when it’s wrong. Every state in our country has laws designed to protect consumers. if you feel you’ve been harmed because the product you purchased is defective, you can sue them. There’s no immunity for the NFL just because it’s the NFL.
In fact, the NFL, through the Commissioner, issues punishment all the time to players and franchises who they deem have violated the rules affecting the integrity of the game. Who is to hold them to account when they screw it up?
LeMon called this a perfect storm:
There’s never been a situation like this and a unique set of circumstances which was determinative of the final outcome of the game.
He explained that this is not the same thing as the referees missing the face mask call on QB Jared Goff at the goalline—those things happen, thus, “If the NFL did something wrong, they need to be held accountable.”
Thus far, the NFL has refused to apologize to Saints fans. Instead, they issued a standard policy statement that these referees missed the call. This is far cry from asking for forgiveness for screwing up the Saints’ chances of winning the game.
According to Mr. LeMon, rules are rules, and failure to follow the rules leads to chaos. We assume the game will be officiated fairly when we buy our tickets, but what if it’s not?
You can argue that a court of law is not the proper forum to litigate claims for impropriety occuring on the field, but as an attorney, that’s exactly what the Court system is designed to do—hold those responsible to account for harm caused by their product.
As a Rams’ fan, I sympathize with Mr. LeMon’s position to some extent. As I told him, “To be honest, as a Rams’ diehard, as soon as the non-call happened, I turned to my son and said, ‘The Rams are going to win this game! I’ve waited sixty years for a ref’s bad decision in a playoff game to go our way!’”
You may say that all of this is just typical from lawyers — the worst form of human beings.
I accept that too.
But take into consideration that our country, as great it is, is because of the lawyers who tirelessly pursue justice (ok, maybe just not Saints fans lawyers). Indeed, not every case we take is about the money. There are principles worth fighting for. One is fighting for my Rams whom I will defend against anyone who attacks them.
However, Mr. LeMon made clear to me that this is not about trying to throw water on the Rams’ victory. He wants to hold the NFL accountable to all of us rather than playing football fans for suckers since we actually buy our tickets and consume the product believing that every game is going to be officiated fairly and equally.
LeMon noted that four of the seven officials working were from the Los Angeles area suggesting the league should avoid even the “appearance” of impropriety especially in a game as important as this one was.
I explained to Mr. LeMon that Rams fans tried to warn the Saints fans through our social media petition that this was a bad officiating crew by requesting the NFL replace them before the game. Instead of laughing at us, in hindsight, they should have been with us!
A teachable moment
Sports teaches us that it’s not how many times your get knocked down, but rather how many times you get up.
If we don’t hold those responsible to account, who will?
As football fans without taking action, we wind up having to accept the fact were stuck with crummy officiating leading to outcomes decided neither by the players or teams themselves but rather by a discretionary decision of a referee’s non-call or call.
The courts will decide if this is the right to way to remedy the problem.
That’s exactly what they’re designed to do.
P.S. The Saints fans are still a bunch of crybabies—GO RAMS!