If You’re Not First, You’re Last: IMG’s Summons Not Enough to Dismiss Pitt’s Suit

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A sports marketing firm, IMG College LLC, and the University of Pittsburgh are suing each other as a result of a contract dispute. The contract granted IMG rights to broadcast and market some of Pitt’s sports teams. Now, they are both suing each other for money owed.

IMG’s summons alleges it is entitled to $4 million from the university under the contract’s buyout clause. Conversely, Pitt’s complaint alleges that IMG owes it $3.6 million for unpaid royalties and other payments. The point of contention is whether the court should dismiss Pitt’s complaint because IMG filed a summons prior to the university filing its complaint.

In July 2019, Pitt filed suit in federal court alleging IMG ceased royalty payments shortly after learning that the school planned to let the contract expire. However, IMG argued that the federal court did not have jurisdiction because the suit lacked diversity. IMG is partly owned by the Philadelphia-based company, Comcast.

In August 2019, the university voluntarily dismissed the suit without prejudice; however, before it could refile in state court, IMG filed a writ of summons with the Alleghany County Court of Common Pleas. IMG filed the summons in September 2019 under the theory of contract dispute. The company requested the court dismiss Pitt’s complaint because it essentially covers the same cause of action as IMG’s writ of summons.

In addition, IMG’s writ of summons was filed before the university’s complaint. Judge Judith L.A. Friedman declined to dismiss Pitt’s complaint because IMG had not filed a complaint with the court, which would have provided Judge Friedman an opportunity to evaluate both complaints. Under Rule 1007 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, IMG argues filing a complaint is not required to commence a lawsuit because filing a writ of summons suffices. However, Judge Friedman found that IMG’s summons lacked information, which a complaint would have contained, to determine whether the university’s suit is the same as IMG’s.

In its response, Pitt argued that its lawsuit involved a different section of the contract than the section at the center of IMG’s lawsuit. The university points out that lawsuits dismissed because of pending litigation are often overturned by the appellate division. In addition, the university asserted that delaying its suit and allowing the IMG suit to move forward would prejudice its case. Judge Friedman declined to join the cases as one and declined to dismiss or delay Pitt’s complaint. As of now, the cases will proceed separately.