Update: Oral Argument Takes Place in Georgia Deal or No Deal Qui Tam Lawsuit

As we have previously reported, a number of class actions have been filed against major network game shows that have incorporated a premium sms promotion component to the game show. Oral argument on a critical question in a federal class action filed in Georgia (Hardin et al. v. NBC Universal et al.) against Deal or No Deal was heard yesterday by the Georgia Supreme Court. In that case, the plaintiffs are seeking to get their money back not from the winner of the contest, but from the organizer NBC Universal and companies affiliated with the show. The underlying promotion was the Lucky Case Game - in which viewers were invited to chose which of six on-screen gold briefcases was the lucky case. Persons could enter either for free via the Internet or through a text message that cost 99 cents. At the end of the program, the winning briefcase was revealed, and the winners were entered into a random drawing. The winner of that drawing received a prize of as much as $10,000.The applicability of the qui tam law has been certified to the Georgia Supreme Court. The District Court certified two questions to the Georgia Supreme Court. First, does Georgia Law (O.C.G.A. s. 13-8-3(b)) authorize the filing and maintenance of a civil suit to recover money paid out or lost on account of one's participation in an illegal lottery? Second, if the answer is in the affirmative, may the plaintiffs recover from the lottery's promoter or organizer? Recently, a federal district court ruled in Humphrey v. Viacom, Inc., in the context fantasy sports game promotions, that an individual could not pursue a claim under the New Jersey qui tam statute because the plaintiff lacked personal connection to the unspecified losses and the winner.

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