Sonics, Storm fans to sue their teams
Two season-ticket holders accuse the new team owners of defrauding ticket buyers who believed assurances that they intended to keep the teams in Seattle.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Two Sonics and Storm season-ticket holders plan to file a lawsuit today, accusing the new team owners of defrauding ticket buyers who believed assurances that they intended to keep the teams in Seattle.
The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of everyone who purchased season tickets between July 2006, when Clay Bennett led a group of Oklahoma City businessmen in purchasing the team, and Sept. 21, when Bennett filed a demand for arbitration to escape the final two years of the team's KeyArena lease.
It accuses Bennett's ownership group, The Professional Basketball Club, of breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and violation of Washington's Consumer Protection Act, according to a draft of the complaint to be filed today in King County Superior Court.
A spokesman for the owners, Daniel Mahoney, said "We choose not to comment" on the suit. Bennett has insisted his intention always has been to keep the Sonics and Storm in the region, but that the teams will move if they don't get a new arena.
But the plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim they were misled by Bennett and that they wouldn't have bought season tickets for the coming season if they'd known the teams might leave.
"I feel betrayed by ownership," said Carolyn Bechtel, 58, of Kirkland, in a written statement. She described herself as a longtime Sonics fan who has followed the team since its inception.
"People should be getting excited about [Sonics draft pick] Kevin Durant right now, not dealing with all these issues that ownership has created," Bechtel said.
Bechtel and the other initial plaintiff in the suit, Patrick Sheehy, 36, of Seattle, are represented by Seattle personal-injury attorney Michael Myers.
The suit seeks unspecified damages and attorneys' fees.
The lawsuit was arranged by Save Our Sonics and Storm, the fan group trying to prevent team owners from relocating the franchises to Oklahoma City.
It comes as the Sonics try to steer public focus to the team's upcoming season, with a Media Day set for today and training camp scheduled to start Tuesday.
Even as he announced his arbitration filing earlier this month, Bennett implored fans to get excited about the coming Sonics season. "Come see this team. Come have fun," he said.
The Sonics have offered inducements to season-ticket buyers to encourage sales.
For example, the team has guaranteed that those who buy 2007-08 season tickets will be able to renew for the following two seasons with no price increase.
But the lawsuit seeks to turn that guarantee against Bennett. It contends such promises to season-ticket buyers amounted to "unfair or deceptive practices" because owners knew it was likely the teams would not remain in the Seattle area after the 2007-08 season.
The Sonics also face a separate lawsuit filed last week by the city of Seattle, which seeks to force the team to play out the remainder of its lease at KeyArena though September 2010.
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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