Judge: NFL can hold off on depositions in suit

NEW ORLEANS -- Louisiana's Supreme Court has ruled that the NFL can hold off, for now, on providing documents and answering questions in a New Orleans Saints fan's lawsuit over referees' failure to call crucial penalties in a January playoff game won by the Los Angeles Rams.

Attorney Anthony LeMon said the state's highest court issued the stay order Wednesday while it considers the league's appeal of a lower court judge's ruling allowing the suit against the league to continue. That judge said commissioner Roger Goodell and game officials must answer questions under oath in New Orleans in September.

However, LeMon said the stay will likely mean that the depositions of Goodell and the officials will be put off until October or later -- if the suit is allowed to proceed.

The NFL provided some limited answers to the extensive questions in LeMon's lawsuit, which alleges fraud and seeks damages over officials' failure to flag a blatant penalty by a Rams player who made a helmet-to-helmet hit on a Saints receiver with a pass on the way. The Rams won and advanced to the Super Bowl.

In answers filed late Tuesday and made public Wednesday -- before the stay order by the high court -- the league acknowledged that video showed pass interference and unnecessary roughness penalties that should have been called.

The league also said: "To the NFL Defendants' knowledge, no member of the 'NFC Championship game officiating crew' observed NFL player rule violations during the Play in real-time at full speed. The officials designated to cover the area of the field in which the contact occurred reported that during the Play, they observed the ball, the receiver and the defender arrive at the area simultaneously, with the defender leading with his arms for a block at the receiver's chest."

The league objected to answering questions, based on game video, about whether side judge Gary Cavaletto was reaching for his penalty flag after the play occurred and whether down judge Patrick Turner gestured to dissuade him from doing so.

Among the reasons league attorneys gave for objecting are that the questions are "oppressive, harassing and not relevant" to the lawsuit, and it demands answers regarding "subjective beliefs."

The league declined to say whether any disciplinary action was taken against the officials.

The lawsuit seeks $75,000 in damages. LeMon has said he intends for any money won to go to former Saints star Steve Gleason's charity to aid people with neuromuscular diseases. Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in 2011.