Last year we passed along a story from the Miami New Times about the Miami Marlins’ pattern of suing their season ticket holders. As of that writing the Marlins had initiated litigation against at least nine of them, accusing them of reneging on multi-season ticket commitments. The ticket holders, for their part, typically argued that the Marlins did not fulfill promises to deliver certain amenities like private parking and post-game buffets.
At the time we noted that while the Marlins may have been within their rights to sue over broken contracts, it was unusual for a team to sue their ticket holders. It’s bad P.R. for one thing. For another, it seemed shortsighted in that some sort of customer service solution — Player meet-and-greets? Merch? on-field access? — may have caused the ticket holders to recommit and continue to fill the Marlins’ coffers. Did the Marlins have to do that? No, not if they had an enforceable contract, but it seemed like a better solution.
Fast-forward a year and we see that, no, settling these things amicably was not to be. That’s especially true with respect to one former season ticket holder who is having some commercial property foreclosed on by the Marlins to satisfy their judgment. From the New Times:
Loria’s team is suing a fan named Kenneth Sack in Broward County Courts to seize a $725,000 building he owns in Oakland Park — all as part of the same ugly dispute that has led the team to sue at least nine season ticket holders and luxury suite owners since 2003 . . . Sack signed a four-year contract for season tickets in 2012 at $16,200 per ticket for a total price of $129,6000. Sack, who lives in Colorado but has a home in Palm Beach, paid the full $32,400 for the first season but then wanted to walk away. The team sued him in December 2014 for the remaining $97,200.
Now, before you get the pitchforks out for Jeff Loria, it’s worth acknowledging that Mr. Sack here appears to be a sophisticated businessman who owns commercial property and who splits time between Miami and Colorado. And, of course, he is able to devote $129K to baseball tickets at the drop of a hat. He’s not a poor family being put out on the street.
It also seems that the Marlins got this judgment by default, with Sack missing hearings and deadlines and things. Sack’s lawyers say it’s because he had a heart attack, but without meaning to sound callous, legitimate health problems are always going to entitle you to get a civil case like this put on hold. At least if you take the minimum basic steps to inform the court that you need a delay. Seems that Sack didn’t do that and now the Marlins are doing what they’re allowed to do to execute their judgment.
Still, I can’t shake the notion that the Marlins seem to be the only team that so enthusiastically pursues litigation like this. I suspect a lot of it has to do with the fact that most teams don’t worry too much about a season ticket holder walking away from a commitment, secure in the knowledge that someone else will step up to take their place. The Marlins, in contrast, probably don’t have a huge demand, largely by virtue of decisions its ownership has made over the years. There’s also the fact that Jeff Loria is not exactly a guy who has demonstrated much concern for his fans wherever he’s done business. If there’s a hostile way to solve a problem, by gum, he’ll take it.
It strikes me that, rather than litigation, some other sort of resolution could’ve been achieved here. It also strikes me that, once the Marlins are finally sold, everyone will be much, much happier.