RALEIGH, N.C. — A family squabble over season tickets to Duke men's basketball games has resulted in a legal fight.
A woman filed a lawsuit Friday against her sister, her sister's husband and Duke University regarding the transfer of two tickets that once belonged to her father for games at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Katina Dorton is seeking unspecified damages and asking the court to invalidate the "fraudulent transfer" to Gordon and Sophia Caudle that occurred without the knowledge or consent of her father or other family members, according to the complaint.
"This is important and it's valuable," said Randall M. Roden, an attorney for Dorton. "She's a graduate. She genuinely wants to support the Blue Devils and go to the games. But she was shocked by the way Duke handled this."
Michael J. Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs and government relations, declined to comment on the lawsuit filed in Wake County Superior Court.
John Dorton, a Duke graduate and dentist who treated athletes and coaches over the years, bought tickets through longtime contributions to the Iron Dukes – the fundraising arm of the school's athletic department. He was "ill and unable to act for himself" when the transfer occurred in July 2008, according to the complaint, and died in January 2010 at age 81.
The Iron Dukes allow members to pass on tickets to family members willing to meet financial obligations, according to the complaint. In this case, that meant a $50,000 transfer donation and a $6,000 annual contribution. The lawsuit seeks to void the Caudles' arrangement while allowing Katina Dorton to assume the transferred ticket rights.
"Sophia and Gordon Caudle regret that this private family matter has been made public," said John N. Hutson Jr., an attorney for the Caudles. "Now that it has been made public, they welcome the opportunity to present their case in court where they believe both they and Duke University will be found to have acted properly."
The complaint alleges that Gordon Caudle – son of former Duke football player Lloyd Caudle – had no authority to arrange the transfer because he wasn't yet married to Sophia Caudle when he signed the agreement. It also states that Duke never inquired whether there were other family members with a possible claim to the tickets.
Sophia Caudle notified the family of the transfer in an email shortly before Caudles were married in September 2008, according to the complaint.
The Caudles later composed an agreement returning the tickets to Dorton for his lifetime after he became "extremely upset and agitated" by the change, according to the complaint. Dorton signed the document stating he agreed to the transfer, though the complaint claims it's invalid because Dorton was "suffering from diminished capacity" and his focus was to regain control of the tickets.
Katina Dorton pursued the issue with Duke after her father's death as the executor of his estate. Roden said a Duke official initially told his client the transfer was a mistake, but later said nothing could be done because the tickets were legally transferred. They also have refused to talk with her further or provide a copy of the transfer policy, according to the complaint.
"They're good seats in Cameron," Roden said. "That's a big deal in anybody's book."