St. Louis has a tiger by the tail. And they’re twisting it.
Via Daniel Wallach, the plaintiffs in the Rams relocation litigation have filed a motion for sanctions against four specific owners: Clark Hunt of the Chiefs, Jerry Jones of the Cowboys, John Mara of the Giants, and Robert Kraft of the Patriots.
The motion seeks a striking of the pleadings and other sanctions. In other words, the plaintiffs want a default judgment.
Without seeing the paperwork (surely, it will surface soon), it’s safe to assume that this arises from actual or perceived failure of those owners to comply with the discovery process. The most obvious failure to comply traces to the July order to provide personal financial information in anticipation of a potential award of punitive damages.
Although the trial court already has implemented a fine of $1,000 per day for failure to produce the financial data, other sanctions are available — such as a motion to strike the pleadings and essentially convert the eventual trial to an exercise in assessing the damages suffered by the St. Louis plaintiffs.
In a weird sort of way, this could be the strategy the NFL has opted to employ. If the plaintiffs want an exorbitant amount in settlement due in part to the reality that a trial in open court will consist of multiple owners getting the Colonel Nathan Jessup treatment before inevitably shouting “you’re goddamn right I did!,” the owners could simply take a dive on the issue of liability, making the trial only about damages and, in turn, making their testimony at trial irrelevant and moot.
Then, after the final judgment is entered by the trial court, the NFL can try to tie up the case for months if not years longer through various levels of appeals. Or, if the final verdict is, say, $100 million, Rams owner Stan Kroenke can write the check and they can all move on. (Kroenke reportedly has agreed to indemnify his business partners as to this litigation.)
It would be an unconventional approach, to be sure. But this gives the owners a way to protect their financial information and avoid testifying. If the NFL’ s lawyers believe they can push back aggressively and successfully against the calculations of financial harm arising from the fact that the Rams moved from St. Louis to L.A. twenty years after moving from L.A. to St. Louis, maybe the best move at this point is to lay down on the issue of liability, and fight on the question of damages.
Whatever the motivation and actual strategy, this case keeps getting bigger and bigger. Making the failure of certain major national media outlets to give it much attention even more glaring.