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Right Field Rooftops, LLC v. Chicago Baseball Holdings, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 31, 2016



          Virginia M. Kendall United States District Court Judge

         Plaintiffs Right Field Rooftops, LLC; Skybox on Sheffield; Right Field Properties, LLC; 3633 Rooftop Management, LLC; Lakeview Baseball Club; and Rooftop Acquisition, LLC (the “Rooftops”) filed this action against Defendants Chicago Baseball Holdings, LLC; Chicago Cubs Baseball Club, LLC; Wrigley Field Holdings, LLC; and Thomas S. Ricketts (the “Cubs”) alleging that the Cubs engaged in anti-competitive behavior and breached a contract under which the Rooftops would pay 17% of their profits to the Cubs in exchange for the Cubs' promise to not block the view of Wrigley Field from the rooftops (the “License Agreement”).

         The Court previously grouped the Rooftops' nine claims as follows: (1) attempted monopolization (Counts I and II); (2) false and misleading commercial representations, defamation, false light, and breach of the non-disparagement clause of the License Agreement (Counts III-VII and IX); and (3) breach of contract (Count VIII). The Court dismissed all nine counts with prejudice. The Rooftops, having retained new counsel, attempt one more time to file a new complaint with another argument and now move the Court to amend its judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) and to grant them leave to amend the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a). (Dkt. No. 78). For the following reasons, the Court denies the Rooftops' motion.


         The facts underlying the Complaint are set forth in the Court's order denying Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction. See Right Field Rooftops, LLC v. Chicago Baseball Holdings, LLC, 87 F.Supp.3d 874, 878-83 (N.D. Ill. 2015). The dispute arose from the Cubs' construction of a video board in Wrigley Field that blocks the view into the stadium from the surrounding rooftops, the Cubs' acquisition of some rooftop properties, and the Cubs' attempts to control minimum ticket pricing for the rooftops. The Rooftops filed their initial Complaint on January 20, 2015. Three weeks later, the Rooftops sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to enjoin the Cubs from constructing the video board.

         The Court held a TRO hearing on February 18, 2015 and denied the Rooftops' motion for TRO the following day. On April 2, 2015, the Court denied the Rooftops' motions for preliminary injunction because: (1) the exemption of Major League Baseball teams forecloses antitrust claims; (2) live Cubs games are not a relevant market; (3) plans to construct the video board did not constitute anticipatory repudiation; (4) the Rooftops failed to establish that they would suffer irreparable harm and had no adequate remedy at law besides injunctive relief; and (5) a balance of hardships weighed in favor of denying injunctive relief.

         On February 17, 2015, the Cubs filed a motion to dismiss all nine counts pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). On September 30, 2015, the Court granted the Cubs' motion to dismiss. See Right Field Rooftops, LLC v. Chicago Cubs Baseball Club, LLC, No. 15 C 551, 2015 WL 5731736 at *4 (N.D. Ill. Sep. 30, 2015). The Court dismissed the monopolization claims (Counts I and II) because Major League Baseball's antitrust exemption applies to the Cubs, the Rooftops failed to establish a plausible relevant market, and the Cubs cannot be limited by antitrust law from distributing their own product. Id. at *5-6. The Court dismissed the false and misleading commercial representations, defamation, false light, and breach of the non-disparagement clause claims (Counts III-VII and IX) because the statements made by Defendant Ricketts on which the Rooftops relied to demonstrate these various causes of action were nonactionable statements of opinion by Ricketts that no reasonable person could interpret to be statements of fact or accusations of criminal activity in the context in which Ricketts made them. Id. at *6-8. Finally, the Court dismissed the breach of contract claim (Count VIII) because the plain language of the contract allowing the Cubs to conduct any expansion that was approved by the City of Chicago was not limited to expansions to the seating capacity of Wrigley Field, but rather allowed the Cubs to make any expansion including the construction of the video board at issue in this case. Id. at *8-9.

         The Rooftops did not appeal the dismissal. Instead, on October 28, 2015, the Rooftops filed this motion seeking to amend or alter the Court's judgment and to obtain leave to amend the Complaint. (Dkt. No. 78.) On the same day, the Rooftops' counsel filed a motion to withdraw, (Dkt. No. 76.), which the Court granted on October 29, 2015. (Dkt. No. 84.) In their motion to alter or amend the judgment and allow the Rooftops to amend their Complaint, the Rooftops contend that their recent discovery of the corporate structure of the entities acquiring some of the rooftop businesses at issue requires the Court to reconsider and alter its September 30th Order. (Dkt. No. 80 at 2-3.) Specifically, the Rooftops argue that this new information requires the Court to alter its judgment with regards to Count II, under which the Rooftops allege attempted monopolization in violation of the Sherman Act. Id.


         I. Rule 59(e) Motion to Amend or Alter Judgment

         “Once judgment has been entered, there is a presumption that the case is finished, and the burden is on the party who wants to upset that judgment to show the court that there is good reason to set it aside.” Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 591 (7th Cir. 2009). Under Rule 59(e), the Court may alter or amend its judgment if the movant “clearly establish[es] (1) that the court committed a manifest error of law or fact, or (2) that newly discovered evidence precluded entry of judgment.” Blue v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., 698 F.3d 587, 598 (7th Cir. 2012). This rule “enables the court to correct its own errors and thus avoid unnecessary appellate procedures.” Miller v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Am., 683 F.3d 805, 813 (7th Cir. 2012). However, such motions are not appropriate vehicles for relitigating arguments that the district court previously rejected, or for arguing issues or presenting evidence that could have been raised during the pendency of the motion presently under reconsideration. Sigworth v. City of Aurora, 487 F.3d 506, 512 (7th Cir. 2007). The decision to grant a Rule 59(e) motion lies in the sound discretion of this Court, and its ruling is reviewed deferentially and will only be disturbed upon a showing that the Court abused that discretion. See Matter of Prince, 85 F.3d 314, 324 (7th Cir. 1996); Billups v. Methodist Hosp., 922 F.2d 1300, 1305 (7th Cir. 1991).

         The Rooftops contend that the Court should grant their motion because newly discovered evidence precludes entry of the prior judgment and because the Court committed manifest errors of law. The Rooftops also submit that because the Rule 59(e) motion is accompanied by a motion to amend pursuant to Rule 15, the Court should apply the more liberal amendment standard to determine if it is appropriate to alter the judgment. See Runnion v. Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago, 786 F.3d 510, 520-22 (7th Cir. 2015). Even applying this more liberal standard, the motion to amend or alter the judgment must still be denied because the proposed First Amended Complaint is futile, as discussed in greater length in Section II.

         A. Newly Discovered Evidence

         To support a motion for reconsideration based on newly discovered evidence, the moving party must “show not only that this evidence was newly discovered or unknown to it until after the hearing, but also that it could not with reasonable diligence have discovered and produced such evidence [during the pendency of the motion].” Caisse Nationale de Credit Agricole v. CBI Indus., Inc., 90 F.3d 1264, 1269 (7th Cir. 1996); see also Cincinnati Life Ins. Co. v. Beyrer, 722 F.3d 939, 955 (7th Cir. 2013) (movant must have been unable to discover information despite exercise of due diligence). In this case, the new evidence set forth by the Rooftops concerns the relationships between entities named in the original Complaint, Defendant Ricketts, and entities that have acquired other rooftop properties. Specifically, the Rooftops have provided documentation showing that the holding companies that acquired six of the rooftop properties were owned by Greystone, LLC, which in turn was owned by Northside Entertainment Holdings, LLC. (See Dkt. No. 78 Exs. A-C). Northside Entertainment Holdings, of which Ricketts is the executive vice president, owns and operates the Chicago Cubs. (Dkt. No. 78-2 at 41.) The Rooftops have also ...

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