Boxer Manny Pacquiao, is now facing a barrage of lawsuits from fans who tuned into his so called 'Fight of the Century' with Floyd Mayweather - after they discovered that Pacquiao was not fighting fit.
As it stands, 14 different lawsuits have been filed in eight different federal courts accusing Pacquiao and his promoter, Top Rank, of fraud as a result of their decision to wait until after the match on 2 May to unveil that Pacquiao fought Mayweather with a torn shoulder muscle - an injury that required surgery.
Today at Unlock the Law we look at the allegations against Pacquiao and Top Rank and ascertain the likelihood of success. We also look at the impact the decision may have on sports law in the future.
What are the legal arguments against Pacquiao?
The legal cases brought against Pacquiao and his promoter make the same basic allegations: millions of viewers across the world paid around $100 to watch the fight, but did so on the basis of the false or misleading information that Pacquiao was fit.
Generally, the response of the courts and legal analysts has been that sporting events frequently occur without prior knowledge of a sportsman's injury, or evening knowing who will be in the lineup. However, there are particular differences in the Pacquiao case that may lead to liability.
What circumstances make the Pacquiao case different from other cases?
Top Rank released information after the fight which outlines that Pacquiao injured his shoulder during a training session in April. He was then examined by top orthopaedic doctors in LA who prescribed the anti-inflammatory drug Toradol and also a period of rest.
On arrival at the MGM Grand for his match with Mayweather, Pacquiao requested permission from the Nevada Athletic Commission to have another Toradol shot - however his request was denied.
Furthermore, either Pacquiao or a member of his team filled out a pre-fight questionnaire given to them by the NAC and ticked "no" in response to the question: "Have you had any injury to your shoulders, elbows or hands that needed evaluation or examination?" . Pacquiao Pacquiao then signed the questionnaire under penalty of perjury, however this information was not made public until after the fight.
Given the events that unfolded, the legal determination of whether fans have a claim for consumer fraud would be based on two factors:
- Whether Pacquiao and Top Rank had a legal obligation to publicly disclose the information regarding Pacquiao's injury before the fight.
- Whether those making the claim against Pacquiao would have paid to watch the fight had they been aware of his injury.
Did Pacquiao and Top Rank have a legal obligation to disclose the injury?
If the answer to this question is no, then the consumer claim will not be able to proceed. The law differs from state to state in the US and thus is it difficult to give a general determination of whether they were under a legal obligation to make the disclosure. There may be case law as to whether promoters are under such an obligation or not to encourage fans to buy tickets or pay for PPV where the information about the quality of the event would be misleading.
However, a decision that Pacquiao and top Rank should have disclosed the injury could open the flood gates to a raft of frivolous litigation. Where would the line be drawn? Could consumers then bring a claim every time an injury was not properly disclosed?
What will be crucial in the determination of these cases is where the case will be heard - what courts will hear the case and which laws will apply. Federal law requires that parties must notify the court of similar cases pending in the same court to avoid repetition. The judges can then make the decision as to whether the cases should be consolidated and who should be the presiding judge.
Therefore it is highly likely that the four cases against Pacquiao by PPV subscribers in federal court in Los Angeles, and the three in Nevada, will be combined into one lawsuit in each court.
Even with the cases being combined however, Pacquiao will potentially still be required to defend eight lawsuits in eight different federal courts, although his lawyers may be able to ask to consolidate all of the cases, likely to be heard in Nevada where the fight took place.
There is a lot at stake for Pacquiao and his promoters with an estimated $500 million generated from pay-per-view revenue alone. The other important question is whether this money was earned unfairly through misleading information, or whether fans would have watched the match regardless of whether the injury was disclosed. Given the high profile nature of the fight, we know what were betting on.
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