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Williams v. National Football League

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

October 31, 2014

JOHN E. WILLIAMS III, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE et al., Defendants.

ORDER ON MOTIONS TO DISMISS, SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

MARSHA J. PECHMAN, Chief District Judge.

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendants Football Northwest LLC d/b/a the Seattle Seahawks, First & Goal Inc., the Washington State Public Stadium Authority, and Ticketmaster LLC's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 72) and Defendants National Football League and NFL Properties LLC's Joinder and Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 73). After the motions noted for the Court's consideration, Plaintiff John Williams III, who is proceeding pro se, filed a second proposed Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 89), which the Court will construe as a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2). Having considered the motions, Plaintiff's Response (Dkt. No. 78), Defendants' procedural and substantive Replies (Dkt. Nos. 76, 77, 79, 80), Plaintiff's Surreply (Dkt. No. 81), Defendants' responsive Surreply (Dkt. No. 83), Plaintiff's final Surreplies (Dkt. No. 84, 86), and Plaintiff's proposed Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 89) and Defendants' Motions to Strike the proposed Amended Complaint (Dkt. Nos. 90, 91), the Court hereby DISMISSES the First Amended Complaint with prejudice, DENIES leave to file a Second Amended Complaint because amendment would be futile, and DENIES the Motions to Strike.

Background

Pro se plaintiff John E. Williams filed a complaint in the District of Nevada alleging various constitutional and statutory violations arising out of the Seahawks' restriction of primary-market ticket sales for the NFC Championship game between the Seahawks and the 49ers to buyers with billing addresses in Washington and other nearby states and provinces. (See Dkt. No. 1.) Judge Andrew P. Gordon of the District of Nevada ordered the case transferred to the District of Western Washington on July 11, 2014. (Dkt. No. 47.) Plaintiff filed an amended Complaint on August 12, 2014 (Dkt. No. 66), and Defendants moved to dismiss. (Dkt. Nos. 72, 73.)

Plaintiff alleges he was denied an opportunity to purchase tickets to the January 16, 2014 game between the Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers at Seattle's CenturyLink Field. (Dkt. No. 66 at 6.) A 49ers fan and Nevada resident, Plaintiff alleges the geographic restriction on ticket sales injured him because he was "excluded from the purchase of tickets" in the primary market. (Id.) Plaintiff acknowledges that sales on the secondary market are not geographically restricted, but alleges the secondary market offers tickets at inflated prices. (Id. at 9.) Plaintiff further alleges various facts relating to the financing of the stadium itself (id. at 2-3), the role of the NFL commissioner (id. at 4-5), and the tax-exempt status of the NFL (id. at 5). Plaintiff acknowledges the NFL's position that it does not set policy for ticket sales by individual teams, but asserts the NFL has an obligation to promulgate a policy that complies with federal law. (Id. at 6.) Finally, Plaintiff alleges Ticketmaster complies with the Seahawks' geographic restriction policy and operates a market for secondary sales. (Id.)

Plaintiff seeks a declaration that the geographic restriction is unlawful on the basis of "economic discrimination and violation of public accommodation" (id. at 6-7) as well as damages for violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act and its federal counterpart (id. at 7-8), for violation of the Sherman Act (id. at 8) and the Clayton Act (id. at 9), and for unjust enrichment (id. at 8-9).

Plaintiff's proposed Second Amended Complaint brings very similar claims for relief, but presents selected additional facts about the roles of individuals in the Defendant organizations and cites NFL By-Laws, while eliminating other facts about the Washington State Public Stadium Authority. (See Dkt. No. 89.)

Analysis

I. Legal Standard

The Federal Rules require a plaintiff to plead "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the conduct alleged." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 545). In determining plausibility, the Court accepts all facts in the Complaint as true. Barker v. Riverside Cnty. Office of Educ. , 584 F.3d 821, 824 (9th Cir. 2009). The Court need not accept as true any legal conclusions put forth by the plaintiff. Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678.

II. Late Opposition and Pro Se Status

As Defendants observe (Dkt. Nos. 76, 77), Plaintiff's opposition to Defendants' Motions to Dismiss was due September 15 according to Local Civil Rule 7(d)(3). LCR 7(d)(3) ("Any opposition papers shall be filed and served not later than the Monday before the noting date."). "Although we construe pleadings liberally in their favor, pro se litigants are bound by the rules of procedure." Ghazali v. Moran , 46 F.3d 52, 54 (9th Cir. 1995). Not only did Plaintiff file his opposition after the noting date, on which the Court could begin to consider the motions, he has also filed several surreplies that are not permitted by the rules without seeking the Court's leave. In light of Plaintiff's pro se status, the Court exercises its discretion to consider the late opposition and the surreplies, but requires Plaintiff to adhere to all procedural rules in the future.

III. "Economic Discrimination" and Public Accommodation

Plaintiff's request for a declaratory judgment is based on claims of "economic discrimination" and violation of public accommodation laws. (Dkt. No. 66 at 6.) With respect to the first claim, Plaintiff clarifies in his Response that it refers to the alleged economic harm done to "the Economy in Seattle as well as the State of Washington ...


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