Rams Ticketholder Class Suit Stays in Federal Court

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By Perry Cooper

July 19 — The Rams will get another chance to argue that fans who feel betrayed by the team's move from St. Louis to Los Angeles must pursue their class action claims in federal court, the Eighth Circuit held ( Pudlowski v. The St. Louis Rams LLC, 2016 BL 230765, 8th Cir., No. 16-8009, 7/19/16 ).

The NFL team properly submitted affidavits supporting removal after its initial efforts to remove the case, but the district court refused to consider them, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit said in a July 19 per curiam opinion.

False Promises

James Pudlowski and other fans say they bought tickets, concessions and merchandise from the St. Louis Rams with the understanding that the team's owner had no intent to move the team to another city.

After the announcement that the team would move to Los Angeles, the fans filed a class action in Missouri state court alleging the team and the owner made false promises that they would fight to keep the team in St. Louis.

The Rams removed the suit to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). The plaintiffs moved to remand, arguing that the suit doesn't meet CAFA's requirement of minimal diversity among the parties.

The district court granted the motion to remand, ignoring two affidavits submitted by the Rams post-removal to demonstrate diversity.

Affidavits Properly Submitted

The Eighth Circuit vacated the remand order, citing a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens, 135 S. Ct. 547 (U.S. 2014) (15 CLASS 1449, 12/26/14), the court held that a defendant isn't required to submit evidence establishing federal jurisdiction with its notice of removal unless the plaintiff or the court questions the defendant's claim of jurisdiction.

The team wasn't required to submit the affidavits at the time of removal, but it was appropriate for it to submit them to counter the plaintiffs' move for remand, the Eighth Circuit concluded.

Judges Roger L. Wollman, Pasco M. Bowman and Lavenski R. Smith joined the opinion.

Bartimus & Frickleton and Holland Law Firm represented the plaintiffs.

Dentons US LLP represented the Rams.

To contact the reporter on this story: Perry Cooper in Washington at pcooper@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bna.com

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