Law of Cards: NFLPA v. Upper Deck Lawsuit Silently Ends

Law of Cards: NFLPA v. Upper Deck Lawsuit Silently Ends

When it was filed more than a year ago, the NFLPA v. UD case sure had promise to entertain.

First, it had star power. Numerous NFL standouts like Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh, someone named Tim Tebow, and more than 100 other NFL stars made appearances.

They didn’t just have cameos—the complaint was packed with information about those NFL stars. Like how much NFL players were going to be paid to sign Upper Deck cards:

  • Sam Bradford was allegedly owed $71,960 for autographing cards.
  • Ndamukong Suh was allegedly owed $11,160 and $4,640 for autographing cards.
  • And Tim Tebow was allegedly owed $84,000 (think he was overpaid?).

Second, the complaint appealed to a large audience. The information about how much players were paid to sign cards was great for collectors, the gaping public and UD's competitors. Also, any time "Tebow" is mentioned, there is an automatic ratings bump.

Third, the NFLPA sought over a million dollars in damages from UD. Cases are sexier when a lot of money is involved.

Fourth, there was a lot of story in this case. The complaint contained 235 specific claims against UD. They spanned 286 pages. Most modern novels are shorter.

All of the above was contained in the first document filed. If a case started like this, who knew where it could go?

Then, nothing happened. For months.

Really, the case did the 2012/2013-NFL-season-version of Tebowing: it sat on the sidelines.

The case was filed in March 2012, and weekly, we'd check the docket to see if there were new filings. Over 52 weeks of, "Nope, nothing interesting." Sure, things happened, like the complaint was refiled, but it only had small changes. Then the summons was reissued, but no one cares about that. Then a couple attorneys were substituted for others, but no one cares about attorneys.

Recently, I lost hope that anything was going to happen. In fact, yesterday morning before we checked the docket, I actually made the statement, "I don't even know why we keep checking this case."

But, finally, we noticed something different. Something happened on the docket. On April 24, the NFLPA filed a document with the court saying the case is over.

That had to be exciting!

Nope. Without any flair or drama, the NFLPA plaintiffs announced that they were voluntarily discontinuing the action against UD with prejudice.

Seriously, that's the language they used.

Legal translation: It's over. And neither the NFLPA nor UD will tell us what happened.

Sure, UD was dismissed with prejudice which typically means UD (as the defendant) paid (or promised to pay) something to the NFLPA, but that's all the information that can be gleaned from this. The last filing. In a case that had so much unfulfilled promise.

In hindsight, it's amusing that Tim Tebow's name was one of the biggest draws about this case, and both his career as a Jet and this case fizzled out at the same time.

The information provided in Paul Lesko's “Law of Cards" column is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues commonly encountered in the sports industry. This information is not intended to create any legal relationship between Paul Lesko, the Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC or any attorney and the user. Neither the transmission nor receipt of these website materials will create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the readers.

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Paul Lesko is a shareholder at Simmons Hanly Conroy and the chair of its Intellectual Property Department ( Don’t hold the fact that Paul is a lawyer against him, he’s also a rabid baseball and college basketball fan, and an avid baseball card collector. Paul can be found on Twitter @Paul_Lesko and Google+.

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