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NFL Seeks to Stall Discovery in Fight Over Rams Move

The NFL urged a Missouri court Wednesday to delay discovery in the city of St. Louis' suit seeking to recoup money spent trying to keep the Rams, arguing that it shouldn't have to respond to broad information requests until the court determines which claims and parties are properly before the court.

The city and county of St. Louis and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, or RSA, have served the NFL and the 89 other defendants with "extraordinarily broad, burdensome and intrusive" discovery requests, the NFL said. Most of the requested information has "no conceivable bearing" on the allegations, and the court should stay discovery until it decides which claims, if any, will move forward, the NFL argued.

"There is no urgency — or even claim of urgency — that would justify moving forward immediately with discovery, much less the broad, intrusive discovery served here," the league said.

The city, county and the RSA filed a petition in Missouri state court in April after Rams Football Co. LLC and its billionaire owner, Stan Kroenke, announced it would be returning the sports franchise to Southern California, just two decades after the Rams first moved to St. Louis. The suit seeks monetary damages from the NFL, the Rams, its owners and 31 other NFL member clubs and their owners.

The suit alleges that the Rams, the NFL and the league's other teams profited off the city's loss by failing to follow the league's own so-called "Policy and Procedure for Proposed Franchise Relocations," which the city says is meant to give a team's current location a chance to remain its home.

Although they are not trying to force a return, the city, county and the RSA are hoping to recover some of the profits gained by the team, as well as recoup money spent trying to keep the team in St. Louis, claiming those outlays relied on what was supposed to be a good-faith effort to stay.

They claim the move to Los Angeles nearly doubled the Rams' value to $3 billion at the expense of the city, county and the RSA. And as a result of losing the team, the plaintiffs claim they are losing out on more than $100 million in net proceeds from various sources, including ticket taxes and property taxes, and losing more than 600 jobs per year.

But on Wednesday, the NFL argued that the "vast majority" of the named defendants are not subject to jurisdiction in Missouri. The NFL added that the petition only contains specific allegations against four of the defendants and fails to allege any conduct that would give rise to a cause of action against the rest.

Due to those complications, the NFL said that the Missouri court should first rule on an upcoming motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, a motion to compel arbitration and motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted before allowing discovery to move forward.

As it stands, the city, county and the RSA have served each of the 90 defendants with broad discovery requests, asking them to turn over more than 150 interrogatories and documents each, the NFL said. Not only are those requests broad, but they're also premature and irrelevant, according to the league.

"That discovery, largely unbounded by time limits, makes no pretense of having been tailored to this dispute," the NFL said.

The NFL asked the court to stay discovery pending resolution of threshold jurisdiction and forum issues, along with dispositive motions, which it claims are likely to result in dismissal of all claims against virtually all, if not all, of the defendants.

Counsel for all of the parties didn't immediately respond Thursday to requests for comment.

The city, county and the RSA are represented by James F. Bennett, Edward L. Dowd Jr. and Michelle Nasser of Dowd Bennett LLP and Robert D. Blitz, Christopher O. Bauman, R. Thomas Avery and Kelley F. Farrell of Blitz Bardgett & Deutsch LC.

The Rams Football Co. LLC and Kroenke are represented by Robert T. Haar, Lisa A. Pake and Susan E. Bindler of Haar & Woods LLP, and Andrew A. Kassof and James R.P. Hileman of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. The rest of the defendants are represented by Gerard T. Carmody, Kevin M. Cushing and Meghan M. Lamping of Carmody MacDonald PC and Gregg H. Levy, John E. Hall and Benjamin J. Razi of Covington & Burling LLP.

The case is St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority et al. v. National Football League et al., case number 1722 CC00976, in the Circuit Court of St. Louis City, Missouri.