California appeals courts rejects Raiders $34m
By Erica Holt and Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City
November 17, 2006
A state appeals court in Sacramento today threw out a $34.2 million
jury verdict award the Oakland Raiders won in a 2003 trial, and
an attorney for the team says they'll decide "shortly'' whether
to appeal that decision to the state high court.
Three years ago a jury ruled that the board that oversees the
operations at the Oakland Coliseum acted negligently when it negotiated
to bring the football team back to Oakland from Los Angeles in
1995 by allegedly promising that Raiders games would be sold out.
Today, the state Court of Appeal panel in a 2-1 ruling said the
Raiders lacked credibility when they claimed that they had been
defrauded in their original June 8, 1995, agreement with the city
of Oakland and Alameda County yet still went ahead and signed
a supplemental agreement on June 1, 1996, that gave them substantial
benefits, Alameda County Counsel Richard Winnie said.
The court said by signing the 1996 agreement, the team waived
its right to sue for fraud or misrepresentation.
Winnie said the city and county had asked the trial judge in
the case to throw out the $34.2 million in damages, but he refused
to do so.
The appellate court ruled that the trial judge was wrong. It
said that by singing the June 1, 1996, supplement, "the Raiders
reaffirmed the validity of the original contract."
The "judges overturned the verdict because they said when
we worked with the Coliseum back in 1996 we waived the right to
sue for fraud and we believe they're wrong,'' Raiders' attorney
Jeff Birren said.
"There's no further life to this litigation unless the Raiders
decide to appeal to the California Supreme Court," Winnie
"We'll decide shortly if we'll appeal,'' Raiders attorney
The litigation began in September 1997, when Oakland and Alameda
County filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that the Raiders
couldn't rescind their agreements with the city and county and
move the team away from Oakland again.
The Raiders moved to Los Angeles in 1982 after 22 years in Oakland
and returned in 1995 after plans for a new stadium in Southern
California fell through.
Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele, who chairs the Coliseum's
board, said the ruling "is very good news for the city and
the county" because it means that taxpayers won't have to
foot the bill to pay damages to the Raiders.
Steele said the city and county and the Raiders reached an agreement
last year that resolved most other legal issues.
"The Raiders were wonderful - they let other claims go,"
she said. Steele said, "We hope we can go on from here."
Winnie said, "We have seen a difference in their attitude"
and he believes the Raiders learned a lesson from the 2003 trial.
He said even if the $34.2 million damage appeal had stood up,
it didn't even cover the football team's legal expenses, let alone
the hundreds of millions in damages it was seeking.
"Lawsuits are the worst way to do business and its much
better to resolve your differences short of suing each other,"
He said the county and city and the football team "all have
a mutual stake in the success of the Raiders" in terms of
it filling the Coliseum with fans and making money.
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