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Judge orders Eli Manning memorabilia fraud case to go to trial next month

A New Jersey Superior Court Judge ruled Thursday that fraud claims against New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning in a memorabilia civil case will still go to trial.

Judge James DeLuca, issued a summary judgment decision on various claims brought by three collectors against Manning, memorabilia company Steiner Sports, Giants equipment manager Joe Skiba, Giants co-owner John Mara and others.

In a lawsuit, which has been going for more than four years, the collectors allege, based on information collected themselves and by experts, that the two helmets passed off as game-used were counterfeit.

Skiba, who was accused of allegedly making the fake Manning helmets that were sold to the collectors by Steiner, had almost all the claims against him dismissed. The judge agreed with his counsel's arguments that he never profited off the exchange of helmets, nor did he ever directly represent the items as game-used to consumers.

Manning himself was not as fortunate. He is the only defendant who the judge found could have possibly violated common law fraud, which carries the extra legal burden of having to intend to deceive. Manning not only delivered helmets to Steiner to satisfy his contract, but he signed a letter directed to one of the collectors attesting to the helmet being game-used. He signed another helmet as "game used."

In what became the biggest bombshell of discovery in the trial, the plaintiffs found an email from Manning to Skiba asking if he could get him two helmets that could "can pass as game used."

While Manning's lawyers said the phrase was being overanalyzed and didn't hint of deception, they never directly provided any context that would have cleared Manning.

Manning's motion to waive the claim of consumer fraud was also denied. Steiner Sports, which was accused of knowingly omitting facts when representing the helmets, also must fight the count at trial. A jury will also decide whether Manning and Steiner are liable of "negligent misrepresentation."

The Giants could still be found liable for fraud if a jury agrees with the plaintiffs that they failed to supervise the transactions that were happening among their employees.

The trial is scheduled for May 14.