A Los Angeles Rams fan claimed to have purchased season tickets for the 1994 season, even though he knew the Rams had a poor team that year, so that he would retain his right to purchase season tickets in future years that he hoped would be better. The only problem was, the Rams moved to Missouri after the 1994 season. The fan sued the Rams, alleging they breached a contract, defrauded him, and breached an implied covenant of good faith.

The fan alleged he did not purchase the tickets “with the intent of watching a poor performing football team play for the 1994 season, only to have the team leave at the end for the year. Instead [he] purchased [his seat] merely to ‘reserve’ the seat location of [his] season tickets in the future when [he] hoped that [the Rams] would provide a quality professional football team product.” The California Court of Appeal, noting the Rams’ dismal performance in 1995-1998 as well, commented “This hope has now been exposed as the most wishful of thinking. * * * What is the loss of a ‘privilege’ to buy a nontransferrable right to watch a poor football team for one more year worth?”

Consistent with a long line of cases in many states, the California Court of Appeal, in Charpentier v. Los Angeles Rams Football Company, Inc. , determined that the fan had no agreement with the Rams assuring him of a right to purchase season tickets each following season. Most courts have held that fans only have a non-guaranteed license to use their season tickets, not a guarantee they will be able to purchase tickets next season.

But the Court allowed the fan to pursue his fraud claim: “We think a jury could properly find that many fans knowing the Rams were planning to decamp in 1995 would have chosen to cut their losses in 1994, rather than sign on for another losing season.  *  *  * If the defendant misled folks to believe the team was not leaving town to induce them to buy tickets to see another poor team in its last season, plaintiff’s claim in a nutshell, it . . . deserves to lose this case. . . . [W]e do not subscribe to the notion that a team may knowingly misrepresent important facts about an upcoming season. For example, had the Rams lied that it had signed a superstar quarterback, we see no reason why ticket buyers who relied on this fact would not be entitled to rescission at least.”

As to the claim that the Rams breached an implied promise to act in good faith toward its fans, the Court held “this cause of action is out of bounds,” because “it is common knowledge that professional sports franchises have a sordid history of arrogant disdain for the consumers of their product.” “Plaintiff’s recourse was to give up on the team when he felt it had given up on him. * * * Franchise relocation is not a recent development in professional sports. Among the most notorious was the Dodger’s move to California after the 1957 season. In the NFL witness the midnight evacuation of Baltimore by the Colts, the relentless fickleness of the Raiders and Cardinals, and the former Browns’ and Oilers’ recent abandonment of their host cities. Indeed, plaintiff probably should have realized that the Rams, of all teams, have one of the worst histories in this respect. The team has, in succession, run out on Cleveland, Los Angeles, and now Anaheim. How long life on the Mississippi will suit the owner is anyone’s guess.”

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