NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Nicole Sheppard recently ruled that a damage suit against the NFL regarding the "no-call" in last season's controversial New Orleans Saints playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams can proceed.
The lawsuit, filed by attorney Antonio LeMon and three others, seeks to learn the truth about the infamous decision in which no penalty was called against Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman for an apparent helmet-to-helmet hit on Saints receiver Tommylee Lewison. The Rams won the game, eliminating the Saints from the playoffs and advancing to the 2019 Super Bowl. Many fans and commentators contend the no-call cost the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl.
In an Associated Press article, LeMon said the decision to allow the case to move forward means NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and game officials could be questioned in a deposition.
Russell Jones, the Jesse N. Stone Jr. Professor of Law at the Southern University Law Center, disagrees with the judge's decision and said it sets a concerning precedent.
"Allowing the suit to move forward means that any fan who does not agree with a call will have standing to file a suit to challenge the call," Jones said. "Such suits will clog the already overtaxed court system with frivolous actions."
Jones also questioned what purpose a suit taking issue with in-game officiating serves and wonders how a judge will assess the facts of the case.
"From my perspective, the suit is problematic for several reasons," Jones said. "What are the actionable damages? How will the actual damages be decided and assessed if the plaintiffs prevail? What are the plaintiffs actually looking for from the court?"
Jones said he believes that there are better ways to address issues involving officiating that don't require legal proceedings.
"The remedy for the bad call rests with the NFL," Jones said. "The call should have been reviewable immediately. A rule change will accomplish this outcome. A lawsuit is the wrong approach."