The Raiders must wait at least another year before seeking payment from Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Inc. of a $34 million judgment awarded the team, a judge ruled March 15. Sacramento (Calif.) Superior Court Judge Richard K. Park said that the commission doesn't have to pay the team until the court rules on a joint appeal (expected to take place in 2005), according to published reports.
Park also ruled against the teamís claim for reimbursement of attorney fees during the six-year court battle. Officials reportedly estimated those fees between $10 million and $15 million.
The rulings come a month after Coliseum attorneys asked Park to grant a waiver on payment, claiming the commission is broke. The commission, a nonprofit panel established in the mid-1960s to operate the Coliseum complex, was dissolved after the Raiders returned from Los Angeles and replaced by a joint-powers authority involving Oakland and Alameda County.
In August 2003, jurors found that Coliseum officials were negligent in reporting the status of season-ticket sales to team officials after the Raiders agreed to return to Oakland in 1995. The jury ruled the team should get $34 million in damages, an award that reportedly increases by $3.4 million annually until paid.
Tainted Victory: $34 million
After the verdict was announced Aug. 26, 2003, both sides claimed victory because the jury of nine women and three men decided the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum board did not defraud the team into returning to Oakland.
The judgment against the now-defunct Coliseum board was $800 million less than the Raiders sought for poor ticket sales and declining value of the franchise. The jury also cleared two other parties of any wrongdoing - Ed DeSilva, a contractor who had served on the Coliseum board and was a key negotiator with the Raiders, and the now-disbanded Arthur Andersen accounting firm, which tracked season-ticket sales in 1995.
"From our perspective, we demonstrated that the Raiders were lied to," attorney Roger Dreyer told reporters in Sacramento after the announcement of the verdict. "I won't say to you that I think it was a good result because it was not, but we're claiming from Day One that we were lied to, and the jury agreed."
Said James Brosnahan, an attorney representing the Coliseum and DeSilva: "There's a lot to feel good about with this verdict."
The Raiders official Web site, Raiders.com, trumpeted the verdict with the following announcement:
"The jury today returned a verdict in favor of the Oakland Raiders in the team's counterclaim against the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, Ed DeSilva and Arthur Andersen. The jury overwhelmingly agreed that the Coliseum, Ed DeSilva and Arthur Andersen lied and acted in bad faith in luring the Raiders back to Oakland.
However, this Internet report failed to mention that charges against DeSilva and Andersen were dismissed by the jury.
According to published reports, both sides are considering appeals. The verdict was reached on the 13th day of jury deliberations after a 15-week trial. The jury heard testimony from 45 witnesses and had more than 600 pieces of evidence to consider. There are estimates that both sides spent at least $30 million in legal fees.
The jury ruled, on a reported 11-1 vote, that Coliseum board members acted negligently when they told Raiders managing general partner Al Davis, below, and the public in 1995 that the then-named Oakland Coliseum had sold out for the coming season. Davis claimed during testimony he wouldn't have signed the 16-year lease Aug. 7, 1995 to play in Oakland without the guarantee of sellouts, and he would have relocated the franchise to Baltimore instead.
On a 9-3 vote, the jury cleared the Coliseum board of fraud charges. In California civil cases, nine of 12 jury votes are needed to resolve any claims.
Jurors said they determined a monetary damage figure by calculating the difference between actual or projected seat and luxury suite sales from 1995 through 2005 and what the Raiders would have received from 44,700 seats and 84 luxury suites - sales figures announced in a Coliseum board press release July 20, 1995.
The jury rejected the team's claim that it should be paid as though every seat in the 62,500-seat stadium would have been sold through the 2010 season, when the Raiders' current lease expires. The jury also rejected a claim by the team to be awarded damages for declining value of the franchise.
Oakland and Alameda County officials told reporters after the announcement of the verdict that the Raiders won't be paid the $34.3 million damage award because the Coliseum board was a nonprofit agency with no assets. The Raiders claim that the public agency that assumed the responsibilities of the Coliseum board - known as the Joint Powers Authority - is liable.
"They have gone after an empty pocket," Brosnahan said. "I don't think they will every collect a penny. It's really a hollow victory."
Oakland and Alameda County sued the Raiders in September 1997 to honor the remaining time on their lease at Network Associates Coliseum. The team countersued in July 1998, claiming the lease was invalid because sellouts were falsely promised before the agreement was signed.
The deal to return the Raiders from Los Angeles in 1995 has been costly for Alameda County taxpayers. The public subsidy reportedly reached $152 million in June 2003 for stadium renovation and team relocation payments. The subsidies are expected to continue at the rate of $20 million per year until the debt is paid off in 2025.