NFL Losing Its Lawsuit Against St. Louis, With More Left to Play

Can you believe that we are almost six years removed from the owners’ decision to relocate the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles? The NFL, its owners, fans and media have all moved on from St. Louis, with the Rams now a Super Bowl contender in a gleaming new stadium in the country’s second-largest market. The city of St. Louis, however, has not moved on, as those left behind clearly feel they were unfairly and illegally abandoned by the NFL, according to the NFL’s own regulations and policy. —And, you know what came next: There were lawyers.

At this point, the St. Louis lawyers are beating the NFL’s lawyers. But there are many rounds to go.

The city of St. Louis sued NFL owners in 2017 with a kitchen sink full of legal claims: breach of contract, fraud, illegal enrichment and tortious interference, all resulting in substantial financial losses for the city of St. Louis. The suit has been in the City of St. Louis Circuit Court (22nd judicial circuit).

The basis of the suit is that the NFL owners breached an enforceable contract among themselves in the relocation of the Rams to L.A., a breach to which St. Louis is a third-party beneficiary, by not complying with their own relocation policy guidelines (the “Policy”). The through-line of the plaintiff’s argument is that despite the fact that St. Louis met the contractual guidelines and protocols of the Policy, the owners disregarded the Policy when it stood in the way of their desired result: getting the Rams to LA.

St. Louis alleges that the assurances from the NFL misled them into believing that the city had a chance to keep the Rams while it was, at the same time, facilitating the Rams’ relocation to L.A. St. Louis also argues that the NFL did not—as the Policy mandates—provide an adequate opportunity for interested parties to offer written and oral comments, scheduling a public hearing months before the Rams actually petitioned the NFL to relocate.

The NFL, of course, has denied these allegations and argued that its statements, both in public and private, are not legally binding. It has argued, and will argue, that its business practices, as unsavory as they may seem to some, are, well, how the business of football works. The owners argue that they did comply with the Policy and the law, even if it left a hurt and damaged St. Louis in its wake.

Not surprisingly, the two sides see potential damages from this case in completely different worlds.

St. Louis has requested “at least $1 billion” in damages. It claims that the lost tax revenue—hotel, property, sales, ticket, etc.—exceeds $100 million. Further, the city claims disgorgement: that the $550 million relocation fee the Rams paid to other owners should be disgorged and given to St. Louis. And it claims entitlement to a share of the increased valuation of the franchise since the move to L.A. (the Rams are now valued at $4.8 billion by Forbes, the fourth-highest valuation among NFL teams). St. Louis will present everything it can to a jury here—more on the jury issue below—including a request for punitive damages that could bring the total ask into the billions.

The NFL, of course, views the disgorgement of the relocation fee and increased franchise value as legally unsupportable. The only damages that it seems the league would consider at this point—as a potential settlement—appear to be out-of-pocket expenditures in the $50–$100 million range.

So you can’t even watch football without running into a legal dispute. They are EVERYWHERE!  And when those things negatively impact you and/or your business including bankruptcies, landlord/tenant matters including unlawful detainers, contract issues, nuisance ADA claims and even collections, call in your good guy business litigator, Dean Sperling to resolve YOUR matter with YOUR best interests in mind!  

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