The NFL and the Rams have failed in their last-ditch effort to avoid a jury trial in Missouri over the relocation of the team to Los Angeles.
Via Joel Currier of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Judge Cristopher McGraugh has denied the NFL’s motion for summary judgment, a common device used by civil defendants to secure victory without having a trial. Basically, the defendant argues that there’s no need for a jury to sift through the facts and make decisions, based on specific undisputed facts that, given the applicable law, require a victory for the defense.
Judge McGraugh found that sufficient evidence exists to support a verdict on each of the various claims made by the St. Louis plaintiffs: breach of contract arising from the NFL’s relocation policy, unjust enrichment at the expense of the plaintiffs, fraud, and tortious interference.
The ruling means that, without a settlement, the case will go to trial. The trial currently is set to begin in January. If it goes forward as schedule it likely will be happening at the same time the Rams host the Super Bowl in their new stadium.
Although the NFL undoubtedly will try one or more creative strategies for avoiding a public reckoning before a jury of average citizens, it’s looking more and more likely that people like Commissioner Roger Goodell, Rams owner Stan Kroenke, and other key owners and witnesses will be placed on a witness stand and subjected to potentially withering cross-examination regarding alleged (or actual) factual inconsistencies regarding the relocation of the Rams.
The possibility of various rich and powerful people being forced to yield to the power of a judge and/or a jury makes a settlement even more likely. However, because the plaintiffs know this, that could make the price to settle the case ridiculously high.
Either way, the NFL has a huge problem on its hands. That problem ultimately flows back to Kroenke, based on reports that he’s responsible for footing the full financial bill arising from the legal fallout of his move.
Whatever the final price, chances are he can afford it.