The Chicago Cubs' ownership on Tuesday blasted a temporary restraining order requested by businesses overlooking Wrigley Field that seeks to stop a signage project, calling the emergency injunction unnecessary and asking the federal Illinois court to dismiss the case, which includes anti-competitive claims.
The Cubs argued that there is no evidence that the rooftop owners would be irrevocably hurt if a TRO is not granted before a preliminary injunction hearing takes place in the next month. The Cubs also said that an expedited resolution on the rooftop owners' also pending preliminary injunction motion is welcome, arguing that despite the rooftop owners' long-standing arguments that the Cubs are contractually required to grant clear views of the baseball field until 2023, a provision grants the team the ability to obstruct views in the case of an expansion.
In a separate brief filed on Tuesday, the team also asked the court on Tuesday to dismiss plaintiffs' claims, which include allegations that the project violates antitrust laws and that Cubs owner Thomas S. Ricketts and others made deceptive and defamatory public statements in campaigning for the project.
“The contract expressly allows defendants to undertake any expansion of Wrigley Field so long as they obtain government approval — and there is no question defendants did that here. ... This government approval provision expressly trumps the preceding 'windscreens' sentence plaintiffs cite and makes clear the outfield signs are permitted under the contract. Plaintiffs’ antitrust claim fares no better, as it is barred by baseball’s antitrust exemption and fails to even meet the legal standard for an attempted monopolization claim,” the defendants said.
Earlier this month, several rooftop business owners requested the TRO and preliminary injunction to stop the Cubs from continuing to install a 2,200-square-foot video board that will block their views of Wrigley Field. The Cubs, however, blasted the timing of the requests, arguing that the plaintiffs have known about the project for nearly two years and that an emergency injunction would cause more harm to the team than to the rooftop businesses.
“Plaintiffs’ businesses are closed from now until long after a TRO would end. ... It is illogical plaintiffs could somehow be forced out of business forever over the next 28 days — when they are not even in business during that time,” the defendants said, arguing that there is no concern of “irreparable harm” to the plaintiffs if the construction project is allowed to continue proceeding through to a preliminary injunction hearing.
The Cubs also contend that the rooftop owners cannot block the city-approved project from moving forward and that, at most, any losses suffered by the businesses can be remedied through money damages at the end of a trial, if plaintiffs were to prevail, according to a memorandum.
“Apart from these well-accepted damages measures, the parties themselves contractually agreed on several mathematical formulae to calculate damages in the event of a partial or completely obstructed view from the rooftops, as plaintiffs even concede,” the Cubs ownership contended, though it noted that an agreed-to liquidated damages formula expired in 2012.
The rooftop owners, which lobbed the suit in January, contend that the Ricketts family is wrongfully attempting to monopolize the market even more and squeeze out the business owners, which allegedly rebuffed attempts to be bought out by the ownership group, according to court documents.
The suit also accuses Ricketts and other team officials of violating the Lanham Act by making deceptive and defamatory public statements insinuating that the rooftop owners were thieves who are stealing the Cubs' property by allowing patrons to watch games, even though the businesses are licensed by the city to operate and pay the team millions in yearly fees to do so.
Defendants, however, argue that there was nothing defamatory about the statements by Ricketts and other officials. The team also contends that the rooftop owners cannot allege a plausible relevant market for its monopolization claims since the Seventh Circuit has previously rejected an argument that a single major Chicago sports venue could constitute its own market, according to the brief. The defendants also argued that the signs themselves cannot be considered anti-competitive actions.
The plaintiffs are represented by Thomas M. Lombardo and Abraham E. Brustein of Di Monte & Lizak LLC.
The Chicago Cubs are represented by Andrew Kassof, Daniel E. Laytin and Diana M. Watral of Kirkland & Ellis LLP.
The case is Right Field Rooftops LLC et al. v. Chicago Baseball Holdings LLC, case number 1:15-cv-00551, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
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