Legal experts say a bid by New England Patriots fans to sue the NFL has little chance to succeed – and even the Rumford lawyer who filed the complaint admits “it’s a long shot.”

But Seth T. Carey, a lifelong Patriots fan, said he did so because “I fight for the underdog.”

The complaint, filed by Carey earlier this week in U.S. District Court in Boston, seeks to recover draft picks the Patriots lost as part of the NFL’s punishment for the Deflategate scandal.

“I couldn’t stand to just sit idly by when – granted it’s a long shot – there is a viable claim against the NFL for taking away our picks,” Carey said Thursday. “Anyone in New England understands what they did arbitrarily and capriciously against us.”

The Patriots were stripped of their first-round draft pick in this year’s NFL draft, to be held April 28-30, as well as their fourth-round pick in 2017.

The complaint lists the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell and Patriots owner Robert Kraft as defendants. It doesn’t seek financial compensation, just the return of the picks. The complaint alleges breach of contract, common fraud, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other things.


Seven plaintiffs were listed – from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida – but Carey said the legal action isn’t just about them.

“It’s not just seven people,” said Carey, who is working the case for free. “It’s Patriots Nation … It’s everyone who still believes in justice against oppression.”

The lead plaintiff, Todd Orsatti of Bristol, Connecticut, states in the complaint that he’s a season-ticket holder and attends games with his 7-year-old daughter. He said she’ll no longer attend games because she thinks they are fixed against the Patriots and is considering rooting for another team. Orsatti said that’s left him “devastated.”

With the draft approaching, Carey has filed for expedited consideration.

“It might come down to the wire and that adds to the drama,” he said.

Michael McCann, a sports law professor at the University of New Hampshire who also writes for Sports Illustrated, compared the action to a Hail Mary pass that’s likely to be batted down.


McCann said fans can argue that the Patriots were treated unfairly. But, he added, “The problem is that when the legal system is involved, it can’t cure every injury.

“There are certainly people who are hurt by the (NFL’s) punishment. But extending that to fan disappointment is a leap that I believe the courts will be skeptical of making.”

Daniel Wallach, a sports legal expert with the Becker & Poliakoff law firm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said the suit faces two huge obstacles.

“The law will not recognize an emotional attachment to a team to giving rise to legal standing,” he said. “The damages were borne entirely by the Patriots and the Patriots agreed to this punishment. The only entity with standing to challenge that discipline is the Patriots and the Patriots alone.”

He said the complaint could “open a Pandora’s Box” where fans challenge any discipline handed out in pro sports.

“Where do you draw the line?” he asked. “You’re going to end up with fans litigating league decisions left and right. Courts will not stand for it.”


Timing is the other obstacle. Wallach said the complaint was filed far too late: “The time to bring the suit was the two, three months when it became apparent that the team was being disciplined and was not willing to fight it.”

Wallach said the lawsuit “is a non-starter, legally … The question is not if it will be dismissed, but how quickly.”

Carey, however, said the “only opinion that matters is the judge’s.”

Carey is licensed to practice in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut and U.S. District Court. He was placed on probation for two years in February by the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar but appealed the decision and is permitted to practice law until his appeal is heard.

“Who knows?” Carey said of the outcome of his legal action against the NFL. “Stranger things have happened.

“King George was laughing in England when farmers thought they could rebel against an empire.”

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