LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – From The Chicago Tribune – Their long friendship had become strained in recent years as they bickered over whether to tailgate and who would drive, so when it looked as if Douglas Warlick would not come through with Chicago Bears tickets this year, Donald Ramsell did what came naturally — he sued.
“He’s a lawyer. I’m a lawyer,” said Ramsell, a Wheaton DUI lawyer who is representing himself. “The courthouse is where you go when you have a dispute. I’m not going to let somebody muscle me out of my tickets.”
Warlick, a Geneva family-practice attorney who has held the tickets since 1985, was stunned when a reporter told him of the lawsuit. He said Ramsell “didn’t say boo” about the dispute when he ran into him at a recent DuPage County Bar Association event.
“I’m still in shock — that’s so obnoxious, so immature,” he said. “He could’ve just picked up the phone. I think ‘sad’ is an appropriate word for somebody who does something like that.”
The suit Ramsell filed May 30 in DuPage County Circuit Court seeks a temporary restraining order barring his former friend from transferring or selling the two season tickets Ramsell has bought from him during the last four years. The tickets have more than doubled in value since the team’s Super Bowl appearance last year.
A Bears spokesman, who declined to comment on details of the case, said this is the first time he’s heard of a fan suing another fan over season tickets.
But Steve Bulik, who manages a Chicago ticket brokerage, said the lawsuit isn’t surprising.
“People will go to any lengths to get Bears season tickets. It’s ugly out there,” he said, adding that some families of deceased Bears season ticket holders continue to receive passes in the dead relative’s name.
It started out friendly. Warlick often treated Ramsell to games, so in 2002, after Solider Field was renovated, Warlick invited his longtime friend to split the $10,000 application fee for four new seat licenses in exchange for the right to buy half the tickets from him, both men say.
The two experienced litigators had nothing more than an oral agreement.
“That’s where there’s egg on my face,” Ramsell said. Warlick said he was dealing with a friend and saw no need to put anything down on paper.
Fans who want to buy Bears season tickets must first buy seat licenses, which give them the right to buy tickets. Warlick had held four tickets in his name since 1985, so they remained in his name.
But the men began arguing. Their friendship suffered another blow after Warlick was arrested at Soldier Field in 2005 on public trespassing charges.
Warlick called his arrest a “misunderstanding.” He declined to provide details, but said the charges were dropped, which court records confirm.
But Ramsell mentioned the arrest in the lawsuit, saying he feared the tickets could be revoked, leaving him with nothing. He also said Warlick did not contact him this year at the usual time about paying for the 2007 tickets, so he figured Warlick wasn’t going to give him the chance to buy them this year.
Ramsell said the lawsuit follows several years of disagreements over things like tailgating.
“Call me a prima donna,” he said, “but we have club seats, and I don’t want to stand in a cement parking garage, drinking beer out of somebody’s trunk. I’ve paid a huge amount of money, and I’d rather have my rum and Coke and have somebody serve me.”
Warlick countered that “a big part of the Bears game is … tailgating with friends. … Don wanted to do it less and less — it was increasingly a problem. It’s always me accommodating him.”
Ramsell said he is sick of driving Warlick to all the games, although Warlick said his Geneva home is on the way to Soldier Field from Ramsell’s St. Charles home.
“You have expected me to pick you up at your house and drop you off at your house for every game, as if I am some sort of limo service,” Ramsell wrote in a Jan. 31 letter sent before the lawsuit was filed. “The one time I could not do this … you made it clear to me that you would not be able to drive at any time, and that my failure to provide you with transportation was unacceptable. If you are unable to drive when it should be your turn, then I suggest that you purchase a limousine service to drive for you.”
In the letter, Ramsell proposes that Warlick transfer two tickets into Ramsell’s name, sell all four and buy new ones on the open market, or put the four tickets into a legal partnership with Ramsell.
“Don, I regret the apparent loss of friendship associated with your certified letter, but I am a ‘diehard’ Bears fan,” Warlick wrote in a letter the next day. “I will never sell my precious Bears Season Tickets.
“I flatly refused any co-ownership arrangement with you at the time of the purchase … and nothing has changed,” he wrote. “I have paid for season tickets for (21) years. … I always had (4) seats and parking passes. I went to every game in any weather condition, and I endured two decades of lean years while I waited for a championship after 1985.
“On the other hand, in just (4) years, you have been fortunate enough to attend as many Bears games as you desired as well as attend an NFC Championship game. Consider yourself lucky, and don’t be greedy.”
It’s not the first time Ramsell has sued over tickets.
Six years ago, he paid $100 for four tickets to a Doobie Brothers concert in Elgin, but the band failed to perform after it rained. Promoters declined to refund the full face value of the tickets, so Ramsell filed — and won — a class-action lawsuit against Infinity Broadcasting Corp., which owns WJMK 104.3 FM, the station that sponsored the 2001 concert.Infinity paid $37,500 into a settlement fund — about half of which went to legal fees, according to court records.
“I really wanted to see that show,” Ramsell says.
As for the lawsuit over the Bears tickets, Ramsell put it in words his clients could understand.
“It’s like two lawyers getting divorced,” he said, adding, “and who gets the dog?”