Before delving into today’s decision in the federal lawsuit involving the Chicago Cubs and two rooftops, I want to remind you of where we are procedurally in the case. The rooftops have sued the Cubs on the basis that the outfield signage they are erecting will block their views, which violates the revenue-sharing agreement between the parties (remember that whole “approved government expansion” stuff from last year?) and also violates antitrust law. The rooftops also sought a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against the Cubs, seeking to prohibit them from putting up the outfield signage until the whole case was resolved. The Cubs opposed those requests and also moved to dismiss the whole case.*
The rooftops lost their request for a TRO, and today, the court also denied their request for a preliminary injunction. You can read the court’s decision here (h/t to Crain’s Danny Ecker for the link to the document), which is extremely strongly worded in favor of the Cubs, not only for purposes of the injunction, but also for the entire case. Indeed, the primary reason for refusing to grant the injunction? The court believes the rooftops have not demonstrated a likelihood on the merits of the case because the Cubs have not breached the revenue-sharing agreement and because there is no antitrust violation.
To be sure, this case is not technically over – there is still the motion to dismiss to be decided, and then discovery, and then additional motions, and then trial (and the rooftops could appeal this decision, as well). And technically, the court did not say “dear rooftops, your arguments lose.” But the court laid out, in painstaking detail, the reasons it believes – with everything presently in front of it – the rooftops’ arguments are unlikely to win on legal grounds. In other words, no amount of additional document discovery or research or fighting will help the rooftops on those arguments with this court at this point.
Worse for the rooftops, the court didn’t have to go that far. It ruled that a preliminary injunction was not appropriate at this time for other reasons (essentially, the rooftops don’t need it to survive because they won’t immediately be put out of business and they can be adequately made whole on the back-end if they wind up proving their case). So the court could have just left this as a mostly procedural decision, and left open the legal arguments. It did not.
So, while the case technically continues, this is a pretty tough blow for the rooftops, and, in my experience, decisions like this often set the stage for very serious settlement discussions.
We’ll see how the sides respond, but I’m guessing it will mostly be behind closed doors. For now, the signage in right field can go up unfettered. The Cubs have said the right field video board is schedule for completion around the All-Star break in July.
*(Obligatory: I was a lawyer for four years in a past life, and these are the kinds of cases I worked on. But I haven’t practiced law since 2011, and none of this can be construed as legal advice or a guarantee. I’m just analyzing what I see, and providing the benefit of my experience.)
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