Root, Root, Root, for the Legal Teams?

A thunderstorm is brewing over Coors Field during a Colorado Rockies game.
The Colorado Rockies baseball team celebrates its 30-year anniversary this year, but the team has an interesting legal history too. / Photo by Owen Lystrup on Unsplash.

The Colorado Rockies celebrates its 30-year anniversary this year. So far in the 2023 season, the baseball team has 31 wins and 50 losses but few may know it has sometimes faired better over the years in the courtroom than on the pitch. 

In the team’s second season in 1994, fans sued in Denver District Court alleging breach of contract for failing to complete the full season due to a strike by the Major League Baseball Players Association.

According to a March 1995 article by The Associated Press, “The Rockies played their last regular season game Aug. 11, and the strike started the next day. The team’s owners plan to open the 1995 season with replacement players.” The outlet reported the fans amended their complaint a month earlier because the strike continued into the new season. 

The Associated Press also reported the team decided “to strip season-ticket holders of their priority numbers if they declined to renew because of the strike.” According to the news outlet, then-Judge Frank Martinez ruled “the lawsuit was flawed because the three men misunderstood the purpose of the regular season.” 

The Associated Press reported Martinez’s judgment said in part, “They contend that the regular season games of 1994 were meaningless because they did not lead to playoffs and a World Series. If the only purpose of the regular season were to qualify for the post-season, Chicago Cubs fans would have the basis for a cause of action against the Cubs virtually every year.”

The following year in March 1996, the team’s 2% owner Stephen Kurtz filed a 20-page lawsuit in Denver District Court alleging he was “left out of partnership meetings and is not receiving promised perks,” according to coverage by The Associated Press. The outlet reported, “The suit singles out [limited partner Jerry] McMorris for mismanagement and breaching fiduciary duty, saying McMorris, through the Rockies partnership, improperly paid more than $1 million to defend former Rockies partner Mickey Monus in the Phar-Mor embezzlement scandal. Monus currently is serving a 20-year sentence in Michigan for embezzling from the chain of drug stores he founded. Kurtz also seeks nearly $24,000 in personal business he lost when Monus unsuccessfully sued Kurtz and the other Rockies owners in 1992.” 

Monus owned 35.7% of the team and his father owned 11.9% of it. In May 1995, Monus was found guilty of “109 Federal felony charges for his role in a $1 billion fraud that plunged the company into bankruptcy,” according to coverage by The New York Times

In Kurtz’s case, the district court granted summary judgment and a motion to dismiss for failure to plead fraud with particularity to the defendants, but that decision was reversed in part on appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1996

Around seven years later in 2003, the team and the company that maintained the escalators at Coors Field were sued over an escalator accident that happened at the stadium that summer, according to an October 2003 article by The Associated Press. The team and the company agreed to split “the cost of medical bills, lost wages, child-care fees and other costs from the July 2 accident,” according to the article. “The accident, in which an escalator suddenly sped up and threw fans into a pile at the bottom, sent 35 people to hospitals.” 

The Associated Press reported two years later a woman from that escalator accident sued the team, the escalator manufacturer and the stadium district for damages after losing a leg and part of her heel. “City officials said the culprit [of the accident] was a missing safety switch. A follow-up investigation found that inspectors certified the escalator even though a key safety switch was missing,” The Associated Press reported. 

More recently in August 2013, a Rockies fan sued the club over allegedly “illegally restricting the resale of game tickets to Stubhub,” according to coverage by ABC News. The suit alleged the baseball team violated the Colorado Consumer Protection Act when it printed a not-for-resale message on tickets as part of the terms and conditions.

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