Jury gets case in lawsuit over Angels' name change

Updated: February 9, 2006, 1:59 AM ET
Associated Press

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- A monthlong trial of the city of Anaheim's lawsuit contesting the renaming of the Angels baseball team went to the jury Wednesday after nearly five hours of closing arguments.

The jury was sent home immediately after the arguments and was expected to begin deliberations at 10 a.m. Thursday. Jurors must decide whether team owner Arte Moreno violated a 1996 stadium lease agreement with Anaheim when he changed the team's name from the Anaheim Angels to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last January.

The city sued shortly after, claiming the new name cost it at least $100 million in so-called "impressions" -- the buzz the city got every time its name was used alongside a Major League Baseball team.

On Wednesday, attorneys from both sides focused on the intent of Disney, which sold the team to Moreno in 2003, and the city when they signed the lease agreement in question. Moreno is bound by the lease agreement, which expires in 2029, although he can opt out as early as 2016.

The lease language says that the team name shall "include the name Anaheim therein."

The city's attorney, Andrew Guilford, told jurors in his closing argument that Disney and the city intended that language to mean Anaheim would be the sole city in the team's name.

He reminded jurors of testimony from Disney executives involved in lease negotiations and of the testimony of a baseball expert who said the "custom and usage of Major League Baseball" prohibits more than one city in a team name.

He also said that a state law supports Anaheim's claim because it requires an "implied convenant of good faith and fair dealing" in all contracts undertaken in California.

"Throughout this trial the defense counsel would say, 'If it's not written in the lease, it doesn't count,'" Guilford said. "Ladies and gentlemen, that's just not true. ... There are some things that aren't in the contracts that count very much."

The attorney for the Angels, however, argued that the key to resolving the case was to look at the language in the lease -- and nowhere else. Attorney Todd Theodora said any arguments about implied meanings were flawed.

"You do not need to go outside this contract to resolve this case. This contract expresses the interests of the parties. The parties agreed that this contract is the entire face of this agreement," Theodora said. "All other promises, all other discussions, were terminated" when they signed the lease.

Guilford also said the team violated the lease agreement by removing the word Anaheim from team merchandise, broadcasts, box scores and other material.

Moreno has said he changed the team's name to take advantage of the nation's second-largest media market to attract more sponsors, broadcasting contracts and publicity.

Outside court on Wednesday, he said he was pleased at how the trial went. He said he would return to the courthouse Thursday morning to await a verdict.

Moreno said if the Angels lose the case, he will likely appeal it.

"When you think you're right, the objective part of things turns into the emotional," he said.

If jurors decide there was a breach of contract, they can then award damages for the 2005 season, damages for future lost revenue or no damages at all.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press