Sports Fans Beware
There are quite a few people out there trying to make a buck the easy way. And if you like buying or collecting sports memorabilia, you're a target. Fans like you can buy anything from T-shirts with your favorite team's logo to the bat used by Pete Rose when he hit his last and record-setting base hit. You need to be careful, though.
In 2009, US Customs and Border Protection and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized over $260 million worth of counterfeit and pirated goods. In 2010, just after the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs started, ICE agents seized over 900 hats, T-shirts, and jerseys with fake or counterfeit logos from the NHL, NFL, NBA, and MLB.
Everyone loses on these deals. You don't get the authentic, quality gear you want, the seller faces stiff fines and possibly jail time, and the businesses that make the authentic gear or own the trademarks lose millions of dollars in revenue. So before you buy, make sure you're dealing with a reputable and trustworthy seller. Even authentic memorabilia may be disappointing.
John Lefkus is a huge Yankee fan. He's had season tickets for the last 23 years. When the old Yankee Stadium was demolished and a new stadium has been built, Steiner Sports advertised the sale of original Yankee stadium seats. Lefkus jumped at the opportunity to buy "his" seats.
Lefkus bought the seats, even paying an extra $500 to buy the specific seats where he sat for the last 23 seasons. His final purchase came out to more than $2,000.
Steiner Sports’ advertisement promised that the special-order seats would come completely unrefurbished with the original seat, seatback and arm rests. Furthermore, all orders were to come with a Letter of Authenticity from Steiner Sports and the Yankees.
However, three months later when the seats arrived, Lefkus was disappointed to discover that the seats were refurbished, and were even a different color from the original seats. He was told that during the dismantling, seats weren’t properly organized.
Even though Steiner gave the customers the choice to buy specific seats, it was impossible because the company didn’t adequately keep track of each seat part. The seats were dismantled and later reassembled. Even if Lefkus received the proper back and bottom of a seat, the armrests weren’t tagged. He got completely different seats than he ordered, and definitely different from the ones Steiner Sports and the Yankees advertised.
Disappointed and angry, Lefkus filed a $5 million class-action lawsuit against Steiner and the Yankees, accusing them of the following:
- Deceptive acts and practices – Lefkus argues that the way Steiner Sports and the Yankees marketed the seats resulted in misleading orders and confusion, Lefkus wants the court to stop them from continuing to sell more seats;
- False advertising – Lefkus claims that the way Steiner and the Yankees advertised the seats as authentic, original and unrefurbished was wrong. He wants to be reimbursed for the money he paid;
- Breach of express and implied warranties – the seats came with a signed guarantee of authenticity. However, the guarantee that customers received was fake and bogus, thus Steiner and the Yankees broke these warranties; and
- Unjust enrichment – because of Steiner’s deceptive advertising, Lefkus complains that the company was able to profit at the customers’ expense.
In the complaint, Lefkus included a picture comparing the seats and shows the delivered seats are a different color than they were in the Stadium. The numbers on the seats don’t properly correspond to Lefkus’ order and weren’t the aisle seats he ordered.
The Class Action Lawsuit
At least 10,000 of these seats were sold and many customers affected. As a result, Lefkus’ lawyers are seeking a class certification in order to bring a class action lawsuit.
A class action lawsuit is where a large group of people collectively bring a claim to court. A few people, or "plaintiffs," act as representatives of the larger group, or class.
To bring such a claim, a suit is filed with one or several named representatives on behalf of the proposed class. The proposed class must consist of a group of people that have suffered a common injury. A judge determines if the proposed class meets the standards for class certification or whether this case will be better left for Lefkus to fight alone.
In this case, in addition to monetary damages, Lefkus has asked for the court to order an end to Steiner’s allegedly deceptive advertising and marketing practices through an injunction. In the meanwhile, Steiner Sports continues to sell and market these seats.
Questions for Your Attorney
- How can I prove if something is authentic?
- I think I might qualify for a class action. How can I find out?
- I was sold something completely different than advertised and I can't get a refund. What can I do?