It was billed as the “Fight of the Century” – the match between world champion Manny Pacquiao and undefeated world champion Floyd Mayweather, Jr. When every dime is accounted for, revenue from last Saturday’s fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas is expected to top $400 million. Unsurprisingly, that is a record. Honest fans paid approximately $100 for pay-per-view access, and the fighters will ultimately split a purse worth more than $300 million. In the end, Mayweather won by unanimous decision and, by every metric, the fight was a massive success for the athletes, their promoters, and the Vegas machine. It was also a big letdown for fans who had waited for an epic match-up that arguably should have happened five years ago.
Reports subsequently revealed that Pacquiao injured his shoulder in the months leading up to the fight. On Wednesday May 6, he underwent arthroscopic surgery in Los Angeles to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder. Despite the preexisting nature of the injury, Pacquiao denied any “injury to [his] shoulders, elbows, or hands that needed evaluation or examination” on his pre-fight questionnaire submitted to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Pacquiao’s camp denied making any misrepresentation, stating that Pacquiao and his adviser, Michael Koncz, inadvertently “checked the wrong box” on the questionnaire.
Following the injury disclosure, boxing fans teamed up with a few entrepreneurially-minded class action litigators to flood the federal courts with lawsuits alleging fraud and conspiracy by the fighters, their promoters, the television networks, and television providers. See, e.g., here and here.
Of local interest, on Monday, two Philadelphia residents joined the fray with a class action matter filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs, Allan Gordon and Seth Lamb named Showtime and HBO, Mayweather Promotions, LLC, Pacquiao and his promoter, Top Rank, Inc., Top Rank’s CEO and President, Bob Arum and Todd Duboef, respectively, and Michael Koncz, alleging that the defendants conspired to conceal Pacquiao’s injury. Protesting what they call a “sham fight,” Plaintiffs complain that Pacquiao injured his shoulder so severely that he could not train for a period of two weeks. Plaintiffs suit is summarized in Paragraph 13:
Defendants each engaged in blatantly self-interested and wrongful conduct which violated the contractual expectations and rights of pay-per-view purchasers who fully anticipated and contracted for access to view and observe an honest and fair boxing match played in compliance with all laws, regulations, and [Nevada Athletic Commission] rules.
Gordon and Smith each paid $99.99 to watch the match – Gordon from his secondary home in Hallandale Beach, Florida, and Smith from his home in Philadelphia. They assert statutory claims under the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (the “UTPCPL”) and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, both of which provide for remedies in addition to actual damages. In the case of the UTPCPL, for instance, a consumer can recover three times the amount of his or her actual damages and an award of attorneys’ fees for a proven violation of any provision of the UTPCPL. In addition to their statutory claims, Plaintiffs assert common law claims for tortious interference with a contractual relationship, fraud, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and civil conspiracy.
Plaintiffs ask the Court to certify the matter as a class action and to designate Plaintiffs as representatives of a class that Plaintiffs anticipate will exceed “hundreds of thousands” of pay-per-view subscribers. In reality, the class of potential plaintiffs could exceed five million.
Given the number of actions and potential class members, it is likely that present and future actions arising from the fight will be consolidated by the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation for the purposes of reducing expense and the toll on judicial resources. The MDL is a panel consisting of six federal judges from across the country (including Third Circuit Court of Appeals Judge and former First Lady of Pennsylvania, Marjorie Rendell), which serves to (1) determine whether civil actions pending in different federal districts involve one or more common questions of fact such that the actions should be transferred to one federal district for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings; and (2) select the judge or judges and court assigned to conduct such proceedings.
In the interim, the chairman of the NSAC, Francisco Aguilar, has already promised an investigation by the state attorney general’s office, implying that Pacquiao might be facing perjury charges.