Yes, the NFL’s Sunday ticket ruling can be filed even if the jury finds against the league

Last week, the judge presiding over the Sunday Ticket class action threatened to dismiss the case while venting to the plaintiffs’ attorneys regarding the way they conducted the trial. Currently, a judge defers ruling on the league’s motion for judgment as a matter of law until after the jury returns a verdict.

Many of you have asked these questions, or some version of them: How can the judge in the Sunday Ticket trial overturn the jury? If the judge is doing that, why would he go to the jury in the first place?

During the life of a civil lawsuit, a judge has various ways of finding in favor of one party or the other, with or without a jury verdict. Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss appeals outright whether there is any legal basis for the allegations made, even if all the facts in the complaint are admitted as true. Rule 56 motion for summary judgment asks the court to find that there is no reason for the jury to resolve the facts because the undisputed evidence developed during the discovery process shows that the defendant should prevail.

During a trial, Rule 50 gives the judge the ability to enter judgment as a matter of law – at any time.

The question under Article 50, in this particular case, hinges on whether the evidence would have allowed a reasonable jury to find in favor of the plaintiffs. In many cases, evidence allows reasonable minds to disagree about what happened. If, in this case, the judge decides that on the key factual questions, there is no basis for a reasonable jury to find for the plaintiffs, the judge can enter judgment as a matter of law for the NFL — even after judgment is entered.

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So how can a jury reach a verdict against the NFL if a reasonable jury (in the judge’s judgment) would not reach that conclusion? This does not mean that the jury is unreasonable. This means that the jury was confused by issues that had nothing to do with the strict legal requirements of the case.

Big corporations hate jury trials due in large part to the fact that jury decisions are often made based on deep-seated notions about what is fair and what is unfair. In this case, it would be very easy for a jury to find (based on evidence uncovered through media reports) that the NFL has unfairly restricted consumer choices by requiring that Sunday Ticket be priced high enough to obtain A large percentage of those should not buy it and watch local CBS and/or Fox affiliates instead.

But it’s one thing for the situation to appear unfair, but it’s another thing for it to be a violation of federal antitrust laws. If plaintiffs fail to present sufficient evidence to support a jury’s verdict on any of the essential elements that give rise to an antitrust violation, it does not matter if the NFL’s pricing strategy appears unfair, unjust, or wrong.

However, even if a judge gives the NFL legal peace after a jury rules against it, the NFL would do well to take the jury’s decision seriously. Because it would mean that a group of ordinary American citizens decided that the NFL’s Sunday Ticket pricing habits are unfair, unjust, and/or wrong.

I think it’s that way. There is no law against being an idiot. Under certain circumstances, displays of foolish tendencies can lead to prosecution. If the jury believes the defendant is a fool, the jury may become more inclined to decide which boxes need to be checked in order to find against the defendant—not that they believe the evidence presented at trial meets the technical legal requirements of the case. Taking into account but because the jury believes the defendant is an idiot.

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Therefore, if the jury in any civil case rules against the defendant, and the judge returns a verdict in favor of the defendant despite the verdict, the defendant needs to look in the mirror and ask themselves a very important question.

Am I the fool?

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