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Supreme Court declines to hear Kroenke, Rams appeal in relocation lawsuit

Supreme Court declines to hear Kroenke, Rams appeal in relocation lawsuit

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Rams Stadium Groundbreaking Football

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, joins Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke, center, and Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. during groundbreaking ceremonies for the team's new stadium in Inglewood, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled it will not hear a petition by Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke and his team to settle a relocation lawsuit in arbitration.

The high court’s decision means the lawsuit will either be settled out of court or head to trial in St. Louis Circuit Court next year.

The case had faced long odds of reaching the Supreme Court, which hears only a fraction of thousands of petitions it receives each year. The NFL and its other teams are defendants in the lawsuit but were not involved in Kroenke’s petition to the court.

Last fall, after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled the relocation lawsuit should be decided in a St. Louis courtroom — and not in arbitration — Kroenke’s lawyers appealed in order to halt the court’s order until it could petition the U.S. Supreme Court.

The lawsuit, the biggest of four filed by fans and government entities, was filed 15 months after the Rams left St. Louis. The dome authority, St. Louis and St. Louis County sued the Rams, the NFL and 31 other NFL teams and owners alleging breach of contract, fraud, illegal enrichment and interference in business by the Rams and the NFL, causing significant public financial loss.

A Rams spokesman could not be reached. A lawyer for the plaintiffs declined comment Monday.

In January, a judge signed a scheduling order establishing deadlines for discovery and setting a tentative trial date for Oct. 25, 2021, in St. Louis. The court order requires parties to produce depositions and other evidence by April 2, 2021. Since the January court order, records show, both sides have begun seeking to file some evidence under seal.

The other lawsuits involved fans who tried to recuperate money spent on tickets and merchandise, season ticket holders who sued over the price of personal seat licenses, and the dome authority, officially called the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, which went to court over the Rams’ former practice facility in Earth City.

Legal scholars have said the relocation case was never destined for the U.S. Supreme Court because the dispute over the Rams’ contract is primarily a local issue, not a constitutional question.

The decision by the nation’s highest court is now the fourth to go against Kroenke.

The first came in December 2017 when the St. Louis Circuit Court ruled against Kroenke’s motion to move the case to arbiters.

A Missouri appeals court decided a year ago that the Rams couldn’t resolve the lawsuit in arbitration based on the language of the team’s 1995 lease agreement.

And in September came the Missouri Supreme Court decision denying Kroenke’s appeal, prompting his lawyers to file the petition with the U.S. Supreme Court.

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