Putative Class Action against NCAA and Universities Dismissed for Untimeliness
On May 17, 2018, a federal judge dismissed a putative class’ wage suit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and several universities for failing to file within the two-year period required under the statute of limitations. Lawrence “Poppy” Livers, a former Villanova University football player, brought a claim in September 2017, asserting that the NCAA, Villanova, and other universities were violating the minimum wage provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Specifically, Livers contended that he and other college athletes with scholarships should be treated as employees for the purpose of the FLSA, and be compensated for their time. Livers likened the efforts of college athletes to those of paid student employees who help with ticket sales, vendor sales, and other supportive game functions.
In order for the proposed class action to have initially withstood dismissal, Livers must have shown that the NCAA and Villanova “willfully” violated the minimum wage provision of the FLSA. Otherwise, the claim would be, and was ultimately, barred for falling outside of the applicable two-year period. The court noted several flaws in the complaint, leading to a portion of the claim being dismissed with prejudice, and another portion to be dismissed without prejudice. For one, the court found that the statute of limitations had already tolled, as Livers’ time playing on the team ended more than two years before the claim was initiated. Livers sought to have the court apply a lengthier time period, but was unable to meet the relevant burden of showing that the NCAA or Villanova acted “willfully”, meaning that he was necessarily bound by the two-year limit. Secondly, the court provided that Livers did not have standing to bring a claim against colleges that he did not actually attend, as they could not have had “significant control” over him to warrant employee status. Thirdly, the court found that Livers failed to state an actionable claim because he did not adequately assert that a business relationship existed with Villanova, the NCAA, or any other schools named as defendants.
In its judgment, the court dismissed the allegations against the NCAA and Villanova without prejudice, granting leave to amend to the extent that the complaint applied to the NCAA and Villanova. The remaining allegations against the universities which Livers did not attend were dismissed with prejudice.