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The University of Miami filed a motion Tuesday in Craighead County Circuit Court to dismiss Arkansas State University's lawsuit against Miami in favor of its own lawsuit, which was filed in Miami-Dade County.

Both universities filed lawsuits over a dispute regarding their canceled football game on Sept. 9 due to Hurricane Irma.

Miami filed for "declaratory relief" on Feb. 13, ASU sued for "breach of contract" on Feb. 16, and the universities are now jockeying over jurisdiction of the case.

Dismissal is important, Miami stated, because "unless one of these courts prudently declines to exercise its jurisdiction, the parties will be stuck in parallel cases where conflicting rulings could be issued leading to one state court's ruling being pitted against the other."

Miami's motion to dismiss, which the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette received from the court's docket database, stated that according to Section 16-4-101 of the Arkansas Code, "a court may dismiss an action where it finds that the matter should be heard in another forum in the interests of substantial justice."

That factor, the motion said, "weighs heavily in favor of dismissal of this case and in favor of" Miami's case in Florida because "at its base" the case is about "whether cancellation of the Game was appropriate based on the anticipated landfall of Hurricane Irma in South Florida."

Miami said it had no additional comment and referred to Miami Athletic Director Blake James' written statement from Feb. 12, when James said, "I am aware of Arkansas State's position on this matter. We believe strongly in our standing and will not comment further as both parties' attorneys bring this to resolution."

"We've received the motion, and we'll respond in due course," ASU General Counsel Brad Phelps said.

The ASU and Miami athletic departments had signed a contract in May 2013 that stated the Red Wolves would play in Miami during the 2014 season and the Hurricanes would play in Jonesboro during the 2017 season.

[DOCUMENT: Read the University of Miami's latest motion]

The contract stated that if one team did not appear for one of the games, the other would receive a damages payment of $650,000 by Feb. 15, 2018, unless certain circumstances made it "impossible to play the game."

Those circumstances, which included an "unforeseen catastrophe," were listed in the contract's force majeure clause. Both universities have debated that clause ever since Miami Athletic Director Blake James called ASU Athletic Director Terry Mohajir the Wednesday before the football game to cancel the contest.

ASU claimed in its lawsuit that the game was not impossible to play because it was located in Jonesboro, and that out of the eight college football games that included Football Bowl Subdivision schools from Florida on Sept. 9, the Florida-Northern Colorado game scheduled for Gainesville, Fla., was the only other game to be canceled.

It also stated Mohajir offered to pay between $86,000 and $88,000 to fly the Miami football team and staff from Miami to Memphis on a chartered air service to "ensure that Miami could travel safely to Jonesboro."

Miami's lawsuit said "the best information available at that time indicated that UM's flight for the Football Game might not make it out of Miami and a return flight would not be available in a timely fashion after the game."

Miami said in its motion to dismiss that key witnesses, such as players, coaches, airport authorities, local governmental authorities and weathercasters "whose homes were in the storm's projected path" are "located in South Florida."

"This factor is one of the most important factors and militates strongly in favor of dismissal," the motion said.

"UM now seeks entry of an order staying or dismissing this case in favor of the first-filed UM-ASU Action," the motion concluded.

Sports on 03/23/2018

Print Headline: Miami seeks to dismiss ASU suit over cancellation


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