John Doe vs. XYZ Corp. – 4 F.J. 9 (February 4, 2012) – Super Bowl Office Pool Dispute

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

John Doe vs. XYZ Corp. 

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM XYZ CORP.’S SUPER BOWL OFFICE POOL 

Decided February 4, 2012

Cite as 4 F.J. 9 (February 2012) 

Factual Background

An anonymous company based in California (hereinafter referred to as “XYZ Corp.”) created a typical Super Bowl office pool where employees had the opportunity to purchase a blank box on a sheet that would represent corresponding numbers to the score of the game.  Each box cost $5.00 and payment was expected upon selection.  Any individual who desired to purchase a box would write his or her name in the box that was desired.  At the time the boxes were solicited, the sheet did not have any markings, writings, words or numbers.  Rather, the office employee responsible for the pool was to randomly select the Giants or Patriots to be the team either vertically or horizontally written on the sheet.  Following this determination, numbers were to be randomly drawn and then subsequently placed on the sheet.

In a pool like this, winners are determined by the final score at the end of each quarter of the Super Bowl.  The numbers represented on the sheet correspond to the number in the one’s column for each team’s scores.  For example, if a person selected a box that had a 9 for the Giants, he/she needed the Giants score to be 9, 19, 29, etc. at the end of any quarter in order to win. 

On January 31, 2012, John Doe, an employee of XYZ Corp., purchased a blank box in the office pool.  He gave $5.00 to the individual collecting the money and was told he would receive a filled out copy of the boxes by Friday, February 3, 2012.  At the time Doe filled out his box, the sheet was completely blank except for the grid lines creating each box and the names written in other boxes that have already been purchased.

As promised, Doe did receive the finalized sheet on time which showed who owned which box and with the corresponding numbers for both the Giants and Patriots.  However, upon inspection, the sheet distributed on February 3, 2012 with the boxes filled in and numbers aligned in each column appeared different than when he filled out his box on January 31, 2012.

Procedural History

Doe questioned the XYZ Corp. employee about whether this was the same sheet that he signed initially.  The XYZ Corp. employee replied that he did not know and that he was simply distributing copies of the final sheet as per the request of the pool administrator. 

Doe followed up with the pool administrator and stated his concerns.  He also questioned the process by which the numbers were selected for each column.  The pool administrator simply responded that the sheet was the same and he flipped cards over to pick what number would go in each column.  Doe asked whether there was anyone else present when this was done to corroborate the validity of the process.  The pool administrator said there was not and he ceased discussing the topic any further.

Issue Presented

(1)   What, if any, recourse should be given for an alleged impropriety in the creation of an office Super Bowl box pool?

Decision

This case represents an issue of first impression before the Court for which there is no precedent or case law to draw references from.  It also falls slightly outside the realm of fantasy sports because instead of basing success or failure on the merits of individual players’ statistics, this is a completely random process of purchasing a numerical box with the hopes of matching the scores of the Super Bowl teams at the end of each quarter.  Irrespective of this, the Court accepts jurisdiction over this matter.

One issue that will not be addressed with any specificity in this decision is the legality or validity of the office pool itself.  The subject issue revolves around a standard grid pool which is “based on 100 squares, each one representing the final digits in both teams’ scores. Pool participants pick squares by random or draft, and winners are awarded quarter-by-quarter, with the grand prize going to the person who nails those digits in the final score.”  See http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2012/02/01/233312.htm.  According to Diane Pfadenhauer, president of Employment Practices Advisors, these types of pools are illegal at many large corporations.  However, the boundaries for such activities are a little more ambiguous at smaller companies.  It is the responsibility of the owner to have a clearly executed policy on solicitation in the office, and to ensure managers are well-versed in it.  See http://smallbusiness.foxbusiness.com/legal-hr/2012/02/03/can-boss-get-in-trouble-for-office-super-bowl-pool/.

The Court has been presented with minimal information and details by the appellant.  The record is devoid of any information with respect to the size of the company or the corporate titles of any of the people involved.  Without certain information, the Court will draw inferences where appropriate.  In terms of the legality of this office pool, the Court will presume that it is being legally implemented.

Given the tenor of the appellant’s complaints and the purported responses by the other XYZ Corp.’s employees involved, it can be assumed that XYZ Corp. has run a Super Bowl box pool in previous years.  Based on this assumption, certain people either volunteered or were designated with the responsibilities of drawing up the boxes, informing people of the pool, collecting money, and distributing the finalized box.  It is unknown whether any of these people have prior experience with these responsibilities from previous years.  However, it appears that the process for handling the box pool was efficiently in place.

Once an individual purchases his/her box(es) and signs their initials in them, they typically do not see the grid again until it is completely filled up and the numbers are assigned.  The selection of numbers to place in the columns is typically done randomly because there are preferential numbers to have.  According to Bill Ordine, an editor of http://PhillyGambles.com, a website that covers fantasy sports amongst other topics, the magic numbers are 3,4,7 and 0.  Since the grid is blank and the numbers will not be in sequential order, no one has any advantage when it comes to picking their boxes.

However, John Doe is claiming that the sheet that he put his initials on was not the same sheet that was distributed after all the boxes were picked and the numbers were assigned.  He is arguing that someone in the chain of custody either changed what was on the sheet or manufactured a new one.  The crux of Doe’s argument is that the most beneficial numbers were strategically placed for the benefit of people administering the pool.  He bases this argument on the numbers he ended up with compared to the boxes selected by other employees.  No evidence or documentation has been submitted to the Court for review. 

Even if the Court had the benefit of seeing copies of the sheet as it was when it was blank compared to the final product, it would require a handwriting analysis and penmanship expert to determine whether Doe’s original initials were either copied, transcribed or forged onto the final version.  No such experts have been retained or proffered for an opinion. 

While there is no protocol for how the chain of command should operate when administering pools such as this, the Court understands the skepticism on behalf of Doe.  However, because these pools are typically done to foster camaraderie within the workplace, it is generally accepted that the process is administered without checks and balances, or any other type of oversight. 

If the Court were to accept Doe’s allegations as true, it still does not preclude Doe from winning let alone assure anyone else of winning.  While there are certain numbers that are more likely to generate the composite score at the end of each quarter, there is by no means any guarantee that it will come to fruition.  The events of the game are obviously out of anyone’s control. 

Based on the information presented, the appellant has not met its burden of proof.  No evidence or testimony has been provided that sufficiently demonstrates any impropriety with respect to XYZ Corp.’s office pool.  The Court is not denying the possibility that the process of selecting numbers for the columns was handled inappropriately.  However, there is nothing present to indicate any malfeasance took place.  The nature of office pools like this is the randomness of the scores and the lack of control by everyone involved.  As a result, the Court denies the appellant’s request for intervention and subsequently recommends that Doe refrain from participating in any further such pools at XYZ Corp.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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