NFL Can’t Stiff-Arm St. Louis on Rams’ Move to LA

St. LOUIS (CN) – The City of St. Louis finally has a win against the National Football League and Los Angeles Rams. A state judge largely denied the NFL’s motions to dismiss a lawsuit the city filed over the Rams move to Los Angeles in 2016.

The three rulings by St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Christopher McGraugh mean the lawsuit could head to trial, forcing the league and its members to produce any number of documents in discovery, potentially disclosing communications and business information.

The City and County of St. Louis and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority filed a lawsuit in April claiming the NFL violated its own relocation guidelines in allowing the Rams to move to Los Angeles. All 32 teams and their owners and ownership groups were named as defendants.

“This ruling is another step toward holding [Rams owner] Stan Kroenke and the NFL accountable for conspiring to swindle the St. Louis area out of the NFL team we supported with our hearts and our tax dollars,” St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said in a statement.

Representatives for the defendants could not be reached for comment after business hours Wednesday.

Judge McGraugh also denied motions to dismiss 85 defendants, including all teams and members of their ownership groups, except for the Rams and Kansas City Chiefs, for lack of jurisdiction.

“Plaintiffs allege that defendants failed to satisfy their obligations under the Relocation Policy, causing injury to the plaintiffs,” McGraugh wrote. “The injury alleged in this case, to the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, obviously occurred in Missouri. This is a clear case of the Missouri long-arm statute operating to hold defendants amenable to suit in Missouri for injuries they caused in Missouri.”

Rams attorneys sought to compel arbitration under the terms of the Dome lease and a separate relocation agreement between the Rams and the public entities.

McGraugh found that arbitration was valid only when a dispute related to the terms of those agreements. In this case, McGraugh ruled that the plaintiffs are not alleging those agreements were violated, but that the NFL and its members violated their own policy.

McGraugh did grant the defendants’ motion to dismiss a fraud claim against out-of-state defendants and the Kansas City Chiefs. But he gave plaintiffs 30 days to file an amended complaint with more specific allegations of fraud against those defendants.

The lawsuit claims St. Louis City has lost an estimated $1.85 million to $3.5 million a year in amusement and ticket tax revenue with the 2016 return of the Rams to Los Angeles. It says the city also has lost about $7.5 million in property tax and $1.4 million in sales tax revenue, plus “millions” in earnings taxes.

 

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