SC Supreme Court: Suit against USC, Gamecock Club should be heard

cwinston@thestate.comMarch 12, 2014 

USC basketball greats take center stage at Colonial Life Arena in January before the Gamecocks' game against Ole Miss.

THE STATE — FILE PHOTOGRAPH

— A lawsuit filed by Gamecock Club members asked to pay thousands more to keep their basketball tickets is heading back to court.

In a unanimous ruling filed Wednesday, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled that Richland County Circuit Court Judge Alison Lee erred in granting a summary judgement in favor of the University of South Carolina and the Gamecock Club.

Attorney Joe McCulloch represents the group of South Carolina basketball season-ticket holders sued the university in 2008, claiming the athletics administration failed to honor a seat-licensing agreement that fans made with the previous administration when the arena opened in 2002.

“It certainly is a win,” he said on Wednesday afternoon. “(Now it’s going) to a jury to decide what’s fair.”

Efforts to reach university officials for comment on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Five plaintiffs brought the Richland County suit, saying they had handshake deals with former athletics director Mike McGee's staff that called for them to pay premium fees on their courtside seats for five years. Beginning with the 2007-08 season and continuing for as long as they held the seats, the plaintiffs – all longtime members of the Gamecock Club – say they were not to pay any additional fees other than maintaining their giving levels and paying for the cost of the tickets, the suit alleged.

But when season ticket renewal forms went out in 2007, the plaintiffs were assessed a $1,500-per-seat fee in order to keep their seats. Three of the men paid the premium but wanted their money refunded. Those three plaintiff’s remain.

In their judgement, which comes five months after hearing the case, the S.C. Supreme Court justices found that Lee and a jury should have heard evidence on whether the plaintiffs suffered in a “definite, substantial, and detrimental” way because of the oral promises they said they received.

McCulloch said he can’t estimate when the case may be heard by a Richland County jury. He said he would reach out to university officials in the meantime to see if a settlement can’t be reached.

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