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Marathon Owner Backs Down from Lawsuit by Athletes Denied Entry

5 Oct, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Legal Case is a Lesson to Event Owners Everywhere

Wow. There are some people who really do read the fine print, specifically two Utah runners who said the New York City Marathon’s general entry drawing violates the New York State Constitution and pressed a lawsuit about it.

Yes, really.

And as a result, the New York Road Runners, owners of the marathon, agreed to settle the lawsuit filed by Charles Konopa and Matthew Clark.

In case you want to re-read that: Two guys from Utah took on the New York City Marathon and won. And in their actions is a lesson for event directors nationwide.

The sticking point: A non-refundable $11 fee charged to each runner who applied for the race. According to the suit, fewer than 18 percent of the applicants from 2010 to 2015 were accepted into the marathon. This, the suit said, made the entry process as an illegal lottery under state law, because NYRR did not obtain an identification number from the New York State Gaming Commission among other alleged omissions.

Konopa and Clark’s suit asked for $10.56 million in damages on behalf of an estimated 480,000 runners who paid the $11, nonrefundable fee to enter the marathon drawing between 2010 and 2015. That sum represents a doubling of the approximate proceeds generated by the drawing.

According to Reuters, race organizers have agreed to offer $2.1 million in credits to runners who entered the New York City Marathon or Half Marathon lotteries between 2010 and 2015. Runners will receive a small credit, ranging from $1.25 to $11 off their entry fee.  NYRR has also agreed to not charge for race drawings for the next three years unless they apply for a state lottery license at a cost of $3.1 million.

Runner’s World quotes Reuters as saying that NYRR has also agreed to improve disclosures, donate $100,000 to the New York City Parks Foundation, and pay up to $670,000 in legal fees and costs incurred by the plantiffs’ lawyers.

In an email sent out on Monday, September 12, NYRR indicated that as a result, the entry fees for the 2017 New York City Marathon and Half Marathon races will increase for the first time since 2012. This will not affect the cost of NYRR’s other races.

NYRR spokesperson Chris Weiller declined to provide further details about what this would mean for those who entered the New York City Marathon and New York City Half Marathon registration lotteries between 2010 and 2015, but wrote in an email to Runner’s World, “The parties agreed to not comment other than to confirm that we have entered into a settlement agreement on matters related to our race entry drawing to the satisfaction of all the parties. This preliminary agreement is now awaiting approval by the court.”

But Monday’s email stated that, “due to rising event expenses and the inclusion of processing and administration costs,” entry fees for the New York City Marathon and New York City Half Marathon will increase in 2017. Entering the race drawings, however, will be free.

Score one for runners everywhere. And it’s a sure bet that event owners nationwide are now shooting e-mails to their corporate attorneys to make sure their events are in compliance with state laws they never heard of.

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