McAllister v.St. Louis Rams, LLC
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendant's motions for judgment on the pleadings (No. 4:16-cv-262, #17; No. 4:16-cv-297, #24) are GRANTED as to the FANS Agreement but DENIED as to the Rams Agreement claims.IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff's motion for partial judgment on the pleadings (No. 4:16-cv-172, #35) is GRANTED as to the FANS Agreement but DENIED as to the Rams Agreement claims. Signed by District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr on 9/21/2016. (JMC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
THE ST. LOUIS RAMS, LLC,
No. 4:16-CV-172 SNLJ
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is comprised of three consolidated lawsuits1 relating to the St. Louis
Rams football team’s January 2016 decision to move the team to a new stadium in
Inglewood, California. The Rams’ home stadium had been located in St. Louis, Missouri
since 1995. The St. Louis Rams required football fans who wished to purchase season
tickets to buy Personal Seat Licenses (“PSLs”) that entitled the PSL holder to buy one
season ticket per year in a designated section of the stadium. Approximately 46,000
PSLs were sold. Upon the announcement that the Rams would move to California,
lawsuits were filed by PSL holders and others against the Rams claiming damages arising
from the Rams’ move. This matter is currently before the Court on three motions: (1)
and (2) are motions by defendant, The St. Louis Rams, LLC, for judgment on the
pleadings with respect to the complaints filed in the Envision and Arnold cases (No. 4:16-
McAllister v. The St. Louis Rams, No. 4:16-CV-172 SNLJ (E.D. Mo.); Envision, LLC, et
al. v. The St. Louis Rams, LLC, No. 4:16-CV-00262-CDP (E.D. Mo.); Arnold, et al. v. The St.
Louis Rams, LLC, No. 4:16-cv-00297-SNLJ (E.D. Mo.).
cv-262, #17; No. 4:16-cv-297, #24),2 and (3) is plaintiff McAllister’s motion for partial
judgment on the pleadings in his case, No. 4:16cv172 (#35).
“Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate where no material issue of fact remains
to be resolved and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Faibisch v.
Univ. of Minnesota, 304 F.3d 797, 803 (8th Cir. 2002). When considering a motion for
judgment on the pleadings, the Court may consider the pleadings themselves, materials
embraced by the pleadings, exhibits attached to the pleadings, and matters of public
record. Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp., 186 F.3d 1077, 1079 (8th Cir. 1999). The
parties agree that Missouri law applies to the Missouri contracts that are central to this
The defendant’s motions in Envision and Arnold will be discussed separately from
plaintiff’s motion in McAllister.
Defendant Rams’ Motions in Envision and Arnold
The Envision and Arnold plaintiffs claim that the Rams should continue to honor
their PSL agreements by extending them to the purchase of tickets at the Rams’ new
California home. The defendant contends that it is entitled to judgment on the pleadings
in those cases because the PSL agreements between the team and the PSL holders are by
their terms no longer in effect now that the team has moved to California. For the
reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the motions in part and deny them in part.
The motions were filed under the individual cases’ numbers rather than in the lead case
because the motions were filed before the cases were consolidated.
The plaintiffs3 and defendant were parties to Personal Seat License Agreements
(“PSL Agreements” or “Agreements”) that governed the issuance of Rams’ season tickets
to games played in the new Stadium at America’s Center in St. Louis, Missouri (the
“Stadium”).4 There are two nearly-identical agreements at issue. The original license
agreements were issued by the Rams’ ticketing agent, FANS, Inc., and that agreement is
referred to as the “FANS” Agreement. Subsequent PSLs were sold directly by the Rams
using an almost identical contract (“Rams” Agreement).
Key provisions in the FANS Agreements include
Paragraph 1. CPSL License Fee and Stadium Area. Licensee will be
entitled to the opportunity to purchase Season Ticket(s) to Licensee’s seats
for all Games at the Stadium until March 1, 2025.
Paragraph 8. Best Efforts. If the RAMS play any of their [National
Football League (“NFL”)] games other than at the Stadium (e.g. at Busch
Stadium if the Stadium is not completed on time), Licensor will use its best
efforts to assure Licensee the right to purchase…tickets for seats in the
stadium where the transferred games are played. Licensee shall be
obligated to buy tickets for Games played in the Stadium in St. Louis and
NFL games played at Busch Stadium for which tickets are available for
purchase by Licensee.
Paragraph 9. Representations of Licensee. Licensee hereby represents,
warrants and/or acknowledges as follows: … C. Licensee is acquiring the
CPSL(s) solely for the right to purchase Season Ticket(s) to NFL Games
played in the Stadium.
Paragraph 12. Additional Terms. (A.) … All rights granted to Licensee
pursuant to this Agreement are subject to the terms and conditions of the
Stadium Agreements and those other agreements signed in connection with
the RAMS agreement to relocate to St. Louis. Licensee acknowledges that
this Agreement remains valid only as long as NFL Football is played at the
For the purposes of this Section (A), “plaintiffs” refers to the plaintiffs in the Envision
and Arnold cases.
The Stadium was formerly known as the Edward Jones Dome.
Stadium by the RAMS, up to a maximum of thirty (30) years. Licensee
acknowledges that Licensee has no claim against the RAMS with respect to
this CPSL and/or its termination whatsoever. Licensee understands and
acknowledges the possibility that the RAMS may not play its games in the
Stadium or St. Louis for the entire term contemplated by this License.
Licensee expressly agrees not to sue the RAMS for damages or injunctive
relief related to this CPSL, including without limitation should the RAMS
not play its home games in the Stadium or St. Louis for any reason.
The Envision and Arnold plaintiffs maintain that the Paragraph 8 “Best Efforts”
provision of the Agreements entitles them to the opportunity to buy tickets for games --“transferred games” --- to be played at the new Rams stadium that will be built in
The Agreements in question are license agreements, which are contracts governed
by the general principles of contract law. Monsanto Co. v. Garst Seed Co., 241 S.W.3d
401, 406 (Mo. App. 2007). “The cardinal rule in the interpretation of a contract is to
ascertain the intention of the parties and to give effect to that intention.” J. E. Hathman,
Inc. v. Sigma Alpha Epsilon Club, 491 S.W.2d 261, 264 (Mo. banc 1973). “A court will
not resort to construction where the intent of the parties is expressed in clear and
unambiguous language for there is nothing to construe.” Id. The intention of the parties
is presumed expressed by the plain, natural, and ordinary meaning of contract provisions.
Id.; see also Gohagan v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 809 F.3d 1012, 1015 (8th Cir. 2016). The
Court is to look to the contract “as a whole” and must “avoid an interpretation that
renders other provisions meaningless.” Gohagan v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 809 F.3d 1012,
1015 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Nodaway Valley Bank v. E.L. Crawford Constr., Inc., 126
S.W.3d 820, 827 (Mo. App. 2004)). “Even seeming contradictions must be harmonized
away if that be reasonably possible.” J.E. Hathman, 491 S.W.3d at 264.
Both Agreements say that PSL holders must buy tickets for games at the Stadium
(FANS and Rams ¶ 1) and that the Rams will use best efforts so that PSL holders can buy
tickets for “transferred games” played in other stadiums (FANS ¶ 8; Rams ¶ 7). But the
FANS Agreement further states that “this Agreement remains valid only as long as NFL
Football is played at the Stadium by the RAMS, up to a maximum of thirty (30) years.”
(FANS ¶ 12(A).) Thus, the Rams argue that the FANS Agreement is clear that the
Agreement became invalid and indeed terminated upon the Rams’ announcement that the
team was moving to California, as the RAMS would no longer play NFL Football at the
Stadium. Plaintiffs counter that the Best Efforts provision (FANS ¶ 8; Rams ¶ 7) applies
to any venue to which the Rams transfer their home games --- including a permanent
change of home games such as relocation to California. Plaintiffs say that the
acknowledgement that the Rams may not play all their games at the Stadium or in St.
Louis for the entire contract term (FANS ¶ 12(A); Rams ¶ 11(A)) is entirely consistent
with the Rams’ promise to use best efforts to secure tickets for PSL holders to those
Unfortunately, the Agreements fail to define “transferred games.” The Rams’
reading is that “transferred games” means games transferred on a temporary basis where
St. Louis and the Stadium remain the team’s home venue. Plaintiffs read “transferred
games” as constituting any home game played anywhere other than the Stadium for the
30-year duration of the contract. But plaintiffs’ reading, at least of the FANS Agreement,
fails to give effect to the overarching provision that the Agreement “remains valid only as
long as NFL Football is played at the Stadium by the RAMS, up to a maximum of thirty
(30) years.” (FANS ¶ 12(A).) This provision appears to trump all other provisions to the
contrary, including the “Best Efforts” provision.
Plaintiffs claim, though, that this reading would make the “Best Efforts” provision
superfluous and meaningless, and, at the least, render the Agreements hopelessly
ambiguous. This Court disagrees. In the FANS Agreement, the two provisions can be
harmonized by using the meanings that necessarily flow from the four corners of the
contract. Paragraph 12(A) makes clear that the very validity of the contract is contingent
on the condition that “NFL Football is played at the Stadium by the RAMS.” This
condition is no longer satisfied because of the Rams’ move to California. As a result, the
FANS Agreement is invalid and terminated by its own terms. It follows, then, that
“transferred games” under the Best Efforts provision necessarily refers to temporarily
transferred games, not permanently transferred games. Otherwise the Paragraph 12(A)
invalidity provision would never come into play. It would itself become superfluous and
meaningless, as it could never be invoked if the Best Efforts provision referred to
permanently transferred games.
By way of example, suppose the Stadium is rendered unusable by a tornado or
other natural disaster. While the Stadium is being repaired, the Rams transfer home
games to the stadium at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. Pursuant to
the Best Efforts provision, the Rams must make tickets to those games available to the
PSL holders. The contract itself has not been rendered “invalid” by Paragraph 12(A)
because the natural meaning of “Football is played at the Stadium by the RAMS” is still
satisfied. In contrast, where the team decides to move its home venue permanently to
another stadium in California, the condition requiring that “Football is played at the
Stadium by the RAMS” is not met. Only in that situation does the FANS Agreement
become invalid and terminate.
Because NFL Football is no longer played at the Stadium by the Rams, the
contract has terminated just as it would have if the contract had run its full 30-year
course. The Best Efforts provision is rendered ineffective (along with the rest of the
Agreement) as a result. The Envision and Arnold plaintiffs’ claims based upon the FANS
Agreement are therefore without merit, and judgment on the pleadings will be granted to
defendant Rams on those claims.
The Rams Agreement, however, is different and requires further discussion.
Although none of the parties fully address this distinction, the FANS Agreement includes
language that the Rams Agreement does not. The italicized language in the FANS
Agreement “Additional Terms” is entirely absent from the Rams Agreement “Additional
All rights granted to Licensee pursuant to this Agreement are subject to the
terms and conditions of the Stadium Agreements and those other
agreements signed in connection with the RAMS agreement to relocate to
St. Louis. Licensee acknowledges that this Agreement remains valid only
as long as NFL Football is played at the Stadium by the RAMS, up to a
maximum of thirty (30) years. Licensee acknowledges that Licensee has no
claim against the RAMS with respect to this CPSL and/or its termination
whatsoever. Licensee understands and acknowledges the possibility that the
RAMS may not play its games in the Stadium or St. Louis for the entire
term contemplated by this License. Licensee expressly agrees not to sue
the RAMS for damages or injunctive relief related to this CPSL, including
without limitation should the RAMS not play its home games in the
Stadium or St. Louis for any reason.
The inexplicable absence of the validity language in the Rams Agreement is
critical to the analysis. Unlike the FANS Agreement, the validity of the Rams Agreement
is not contingent on the Rams playing football at the Stadium. Looking to the entirety of
the Rams Agreement, the Agreement remains in effect until 2025, and, regardless of
where the Rams play their home games, they are required to use “Best Efforts” to allow
PSL holders the right to purchase “tickets for seats in the stadium where the transferred
games are played.” (Rams ¶ 7.) Even though the Licensee understands that the Rams
may not play their games in the Stadium for the entire term (Rams ¶ 11(A)), that is
entirely consistent with the Best Efforts clause, and there is nothing in the Agreement to
render the Best Efforts provision invalid.
The Court observes that both the FANS and Rams Agreements include language
that the PSL holder “expressly agrees not to sue the Team for damages or injunctive
relief related to this CPSL, including without limitation should the Team not play its
home games in the Stadium or in St. Louis for any reason.”5 Although this provision is
present in both Agreements, the Rams do not rely on it or even mention it in their briefing
on the motions. In any event, had the Rams relied on the PSL holders’ promise not to sue
the Rams, that promise would seem to render the Rams’ own promises unenforceable and
arguably render the Agreements illusory.
In sum, the Rams Agreement requires the Rams to use Best Efforts to secure
tickets for seats at games where the transferred home games are played. Judgment on the
pleadings is therefore denied to the Rams with respect to the Rams Agreement.
Paradoxically, the Agreements also state that “any action, suit or other proceeding brought by
or against the Licensee or Licensor…shall be brought in” this Court. (FANS ¶ 12(C); Rams ¶
Plaintiff’s Motion in the McAllister case
The McAllister plaintiff’s claims are entirely distinct from those in Envision and
Arnold. In contrast to those plaintiffs, who claimed the Agreements’ Best Efforts
provision require the Rams to make tickets available to games in California, McAllister
claims that the Agreements have been terminated and defendant is in breach. The
McAllister plaintiff argues that the Agreements gave the Rams the right to terminate the
Agreements, but that the termination must be accompanied by a refund to the PSL owner
(except in the case of default by the PSL holder). The FANS and Rams Agreements are
substantively identical and state as follows:
[The Licensor] hereby expressly reserves the following rights: A. The
right to terminate this Agreement and refund part or all of Licensee’s
deposit, either if the Licensor determines that Licensee’s credit is not
satisfactory for this License and future obligations of Licensee to acquire
tickets, or for any other reason satisfactory to Licensor in its sole discretion,
including, but not limited to, the right to reduce the total number of
CPSL(s) purchased by Licensee if necessary.
(FANS ¶ 7 (emphasis added); see also Rams ¶ 6.) Plaintiff, like the plaintiffs in Envision
and Arnold, purports to bring his case on behalf of a class of at least 40,000 PSL holders.
The Rams contend that the Agreements terminated when the Rams no longer
played football in the Stadium, thus all other provisions terminated along with it. The
Rams explain that any duty to refund deposits could not have survived expiration of the
Agreements. They argue, “[r]ather, as written, the ‘refund’ provision simply provided the
Rams with a non-controversial right to limit the number of seats sold to any Licensee
and, if a deposit had been made, to refund all or a portion of it back.” (#42 at 6.) The
Rams characterize the agreements as having “expired” upon their relocation, not that the
Rams “terminated” the contracts; the Rams further observe that the Agreements state that
the Rams have “no liability” for the team’s “failure to play games in the Stadium.” 6 (Id.
McAllister agrees that, if there was a contract, it has terminated. This Court
agrees that, as explained above in Section II.A.1, the FANS Agreement has terminated.
Whether the FANS Agreement merely “expired” passively or was actively “terminated”
by the Rams, however, is irrelevant according to the plain language of the Agreement. In
fact, “expiration” is a synonym for “termination.” See The Random House Webster’s
Unabridged Dictionary (2nd ed. 2001) at 681. The Agreements state that the Rams have
the “right to terminate this Agreement…and refund …Licensee’s deposit, either if
Licensor determines that Licensee’s credit is not satisfactory …, or for any other reason
satisfactory to Licensor in its sole discretion, including, but not limited to, the right to
reduce the total number of CPSL(s) purchased by Licensee if necessary….”
Far from limiting the terminate-and-refund language to reducing PSLs, the
Reservation of Rights language gives the Rams carte blanche to “terminate…and refund”
for “any…reason.” The right to reduce a Licensee’s total PSLs was “include[ed],” but it
was “not limited to” that right. The language of the contract says nothing about the
manner of termination or its cause; rather, it is clear that it can happen for any reason in
the Rams’ “sole discretion.” As this Court discussed in Part II.A, the Rams terminated
the FANS Agreement. By the Agreement’s own terms, the right to terminate and a
The Rams again stop short of invoking the Agreements’ provisions that state the PSL holders
may not sue the Rams for any reason. Rather, they merely state, without any analysis or
argument, that the PSL holders agreed that the Rams have “no liability.” Regardless, even if the
Rams did insulate themselves from liability with respect to failure to play games in the Stadium
generally, the provision does not obliterate the Rams’ right and duty to “terminate…and refund”
as discussed below.
refund of deposits go hand-in-hand. Accordingly, the Rams must now
The matter of what amount must be refunded --- what constitutes a “deposit” --- is
a matter of damages, not liability. It is unclear from the FANS Agreement just what
would or could constitute a “deposit” in the context of the Agreement. McAllister alleges
that he paid $1,000 for each of his PSLs, but the Rams maintain those payments
constitute “License Fees” discussed in Paragraph 1, not “deposits.” On the other hand,
McAllister argues that the License Fees were “given as security or in part payment” of
what a Licensee needed to pay to acquire season tickets, Random House Dictionary 535;
i.e., the payments were “money given as a down payment,” Merriam-Webster 335, and
money placed to secure “the performance of a contract,” Black’s Law Dictionary 450 (7th
The Rams point out, however, that the FANS Agreement (but not the Rams
Agreement) includes a Paragraph 4, titled “Refunds,” that states “If the RAMS do not
move to St. Louis by September 1, 1996, all CPSL payments made by Licensee will be
refunded to Licensee without interest.” That appears to be the only other mention of
“refunds” in either Agreement. The Rams argue that if a “deposit” were the same as a
“License Fee,” Paragraph 4 of the FANS Agreement would have also referred to
“deposits.” That argument does not hold. Although Paragraph 4’s application has been
mooted by the fact that the Rams did move to St. Louis, it does not present the only
context in which a “refund” could be due in light of the fact that the Reservation of
Rights language allows termination “for any other reason.”
The Rams terminated the FANS Agreement because it became invalid on the
Rams’ move to California and now must “refund…deposit(s),” but the Court cannot fully
grant judgment on the pleadings because the issue of damages will be wholly tied to what
constitutes a “deposit” under the contract. Damages will therefore be determined at a
As for the Rams Agreement, as explained above in Section II.A.2, there has been
no termination. The Licensees’ remedy, although not the remedy sought by the
McAllister plaintiff, is to obtain tickets to the transferred games in California through the
Best Efforts provision. The termination/refund provision is inapplicable.
Finally, the Court notes that McAllister also brought a claim for relief on the
alternative ground that the Agreements are illusory in that PSL holders would have no
remedy in the event of a breach by the Rams. Because plaintiff will be granted judgment
on his breach of contract claim as to the FANS Agreement, and because plaintiff has a
remedy on the Rams Agreement through the Best Efforts clause, his alternative claim that
the contract is illusory is moot.
Neither the FANS Agreement nor Rams Agreement offers up a model of
contractual clarity. However, the four corners of the FANS Agreement establish that, in
the event the Rams moved their home venue away from the Stadium, the contracts
terminated; in contrast, the four corners of the Rams Agreement establish that the Rams
have the obligation to use Best Efforts to offer tickets at the Rams’ new home venue to
St. Louis Rams PSL holders. The Rams are thus entitled to judgment on the pleadings
for the Envision and Arnold complaints to the extent those plaintiffs’ claims are based on
the FANS Agreement. The Rams are not entitled to judgment on the pleadings as to the
Rams Agreement claims. As for the McAllister complaint and its entirely different
claims, that plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted as to defendant’s
liability on the FANS Agreement but not on the Rams Agreement because only the
FANS Agreement has terminated.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendant’s motions for judgment on the
pleadings (No. 4:16-cv-262, #17; No. 4:16-cv-297, #24) are GRANTED as to the FANS
Agreement but DENIED as to the Rams Agreement claims.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff’s motion for partial judgment on the
pleadings (No. 4:16-cv-172, #35) is GRANTED as to the FANS Agreement but DENIED
as to the Rams Agreement claims.
Dated this 21st day of September, 2016.
STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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