Rams owner Stan Kroenke is willing to dig deep in an effort to resolve the St. Louis relocation litigation. But perhaps not deep enough.
According to A.J. Perez of FrontOfficeSports.com, Kroenke has offered $100 million to settle the case. The offer reportedly was “rebuffed.”
The specific context of that offer isn’t known. If, for example, the plaintiffs demanded $1 billion and Kroenke offered $100 million in response, it likely means that further negotiation could resolve the case in the range of $500 million. If, in contrast, the plaintiffs started at $200 million, Kroenke began at $10 million, further negotiation resulted in a bottom-line offer from Kroenke of $100 million, and the plaintiffs said no, the process could be over.
The deadline-driven nature of the NFL extends to other industries, including civil litigation. If one side moves to its bottom-line position in advance of a relevant drop-dead date, that side inevitably will be pressured to give even more when the true deadline arrives.
So when is the deadline for this specific battle? Plenty of cases are settled on the eve of trial or, literally, on the courthouse steps. But with trial due to commence on January 10, that’s a lot of wasted time and effort over the holidays as the lawyers grind away at getting ready (and full-blown preparation for a lengthy and complex trial becomes an every-waking-moment effort for multiple weeks) for presentations of argument and evidence that may never happen.
The best way to settle any civil case is to hire a competent neutral lawyer (preferably, a retired judge) to preside over negotiations. The mediator, during private sessions with each side of the case, can speak candidly about the weaknesses, and every case has them. The plaintiffs need to hear about their weaknesses so that they’ll take less. The NFL, which typically doesn’t like to listen to anyone, needs to hear about its weaknesses so that it will pay more.
Complicating the situation from the league’s perspective is Kroenke’s apparent intention to bail on the terms of his indemnity agreement. For mediation purposes, there’s tangible financial value that the rest of the league can bring to the table as part of a global settlement that results in money being paid by Kroenke and then by the league.
Or maybe there should be two mediations, one aimed at getting the league on the same page about where the money will come from to resolve the lawsuit and then a mediation aimed at resolving the lawsuit.
Often in litigation, egos and personalities and real or feigned righteousness can prevent efforts to reach an outcome that neither side will love but with which each side can live. The real question for the NFL and St. Louis at this point is whether the spirit of the looming holiday season can persuade them to beat their swords into an acceptable settlement.