Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

She sues, she scores

Plaintiff wins battle over Jets seats

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A judge has settled the score between two family members fighting over custody of Winnipeg Jets tickets.

Darlene Gibb, 70, won her lawsuit against her brother-in-law Wednesday, allowing her to gain ownership of a pair of tickets she claims were rightfully hers, but were yanked away after a handshake deal fell apart.

Queen's Bench Justice Morris Kaufman said he preferred Gibb's story over the one spun by John Longstaff, a 73-year-old Air Force veteran who has attended professional hockey games in Winnipeg since 1973. He ruled Longstaff violated a "legal arrangement" and must turn over his seats to Gibb.

Longstaff was the registered owner of two P2 tickets at the MTS Centre, seats 3 and 4 in row 12, section 117, which he purchased in advance of the public in the summer of 2011 thanks to his status as a Manitoba Moose ticket holder.

Kaufman ruled Wednesday Longstaff will still be allowed to pay for up to 12 games a season. Kaufman also warned Gibb to ensure the ticket draft is fair so Longstaff "doesn't get 12 games against the bottom three teams. Although hopefully, those don't include the Jets."

Lawyers said they would work together to ensure a fair selection process.

Kaufman said they could return to court if there are lingering disputes.

While testifying this week, Longstaff admitted he agreed to transfer ownership of his tickets to Gibb but said it would only be after his death.

Gibb testified Longstaff promised to do it after the first season, when True North Sports & Entertainment allowed for such transfers.

"There's clearly a critical difference," Kaufman said Wednesday. He said Gibb testified in a "forthright" manner while Longstaff's version was often "skimpy" and full of holes.

For the first season, Gibb took 29 regular-season tickets while Longstaff took 12.

Longstaff paid True North directly for his tickets, but Gibb and her son had the financing put in their name and also paid the $2,000 mandatory deposit, in addition to their 29 games, court was told.

Gibb claimed Longstaff backed out of the deal because he wasn't happy with the games he received during their initial ticket draft, including missing out on Teemu Selanne's return to Winnipeg with the Anaheim Ducks.

Longstaff said he always intended to keep his tickets and planned to share them with friends who are hockey fans. He claimed Gibb knew his intentions and was trying to fool the court.

"I had no intention of giving up my hockey tickets. Never have. In wintertime, that's what I do: go to hockey games and have coffee with friends," Longstaff said.

He claimed Gibb's son, Ian Gibb, went to his house and threatened him after the first season ended and Longstaff informed them he would only give them about a dozen tickets for season two.

Gibb told a different story, saying Longstaff threatened her.

"I said, 'You reneged on the deal, so we'll have to get a lawyer involved.' He said 'Then I'll call the police and report you for a home invasion,' " she told court.

Gibb told court the dispute could have been avoided if Longstaff had agreed to purchase four season tickets, not two, and give two of them to her as she originally requested.

But she claimed Longstaff didn't want two tickets of his own because of the cost, his age and poor health.

Gibb's lawyer, Jamie Kagan, argued that alone was a sign his client was telling the truth and Longstaff changed the rules along the way.

A lawyer for True North observed the trial this week and a season-ticket representative testified about the team's policies.

He told court about 700 people transferred ownership of tickets after the first season, and this is believed to be the only case that ended up in court.

The high price of Jets games has prompted many people to form partnerships to share a pair of season tickets. Experts warned from the start these handshake-only pacts could result in legal problems.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 14, 2013 B1

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