Judge reverses field, orders deposition from NFL's Goodell


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ARLINGTON, Texas -- A Texas judge reversed an earlier ruling and said last week that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can be questioned by attorneys for ticketholders who sued after they were displaced when seats weren't properly installed for the 2011 Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium.

The ruling issued Wednesday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Renee Toliver in Dallas states that Mr. Goodell must give a deposition at National Football League headquarters in New York no later than Aug. 5.

About 1,250 temporary seats at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington were deemed unsafe just hours before the Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25.

That forced about 850 ticketholders to move to new seats, and 400 others to watch from standing-room locations.

In February, Judge Toliver granted an NFL motion to quash any deposition by Mr. Goodell, saying plaintiffs' attorneys hadn't met the threshold requiring a chief executive to testify.

Judge Toliver granted the request in the latest order after attorneys argued that depositions from lower-ranking executives backed their claim that Mr. Goodell had firsthand knowledge of some facts as "the only NFL executive known to plaintiffs who has gone on record and admitted fault and mistakes on behalf of the NFL in relation to the temporary seating."

The commissioner can be questioned about statements he made involving temporary seating, the stadium's giant video board, affected fans as long as the statements aren't subject to attorney-client privilege and any communications he had with affected fans.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs claim Mr. Goodell was "actively and personally involved" in Super Bowl planning and that he "hyped" the video board before the game. Many fans in temporary seats had no view of the board.

Judge Toliver's ruling came a day after another federal judge in Dallas denied class-action status for the lawsuit.

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