Angel Name Case Is in the Hands of the Jury
After five hours of closing statements, four weeks of testimony and 13 months of litigation, a jury will decide whether the Angels broke a stadium lease with the city of Anaheim by changing the club’s name.
During most of the Orange County Superior Court trial, only about a dozen people viewed the proceedings. But the courtroom was nearly full Wednesday, and the crowd included Angel Manager Mike Scioscia, who leaves for spring training in Tempe, Ariz., next week.
Whether the name of Scioscia’s team will continue to read Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or revert to Anaheim Angels is now for the jury and Judge Peter Polos to decide.
In his closing, Anaheim attorney Andy Guilford acknowledged that Angel owner Arte Moreno was “technically compliant” with the stadium lease when he changed the team’s name to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. But Guilford said hypothetical names such as “Angels of Bush League Anaheim” and “Phoenix Angels Formerly of Anaheim” also technically comply with the lease clause that requires the team to “include the name Anaheim therein.”
He said those “silly, oxymoronic, bizarre” names don’t meet the state’s covenant of good faith and fair dealing law, which the jury is being asked to consider by Polos. Guilford argued that the actual name, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, is even worse than the hypothetical ones “because it promotes a city that’s trying to get convention business from Anaheim.”
Guilford said Larry Murphy, a Walt Disney Co. executive, was the only negotiator for either side who had testified that more than one geographic area was being considered for the name during lease talks between the city and Disney -- the team’s former owner -- in 1996. Guilford said the jury shouldn’t consider Murphy’s testimony because he wasn’t a “neutral” witness and because he did not convey his thought about two geographic references in the name to anyone on the city’s side.
Angel attorney Todd Theodora argued that Murphy’s evidence was key because he was Disney’s lead negotiator and because he was credible.
“He said he did not want to be here [testifying], and he said he liked the city,” Theodora said.
If there was so much confusion over Murphy’s testimony, Theodora wondered why the city didn’t call Murphy’s boss, former Disney chief executive Michael Eisner, to clarify the company’s position.
The city, which claims Anaheim has virtually disappeared from the team’s name, is asking for as much as $373 million in damages over the next 23 years from lost exposure through television, newspapers, magazines and the Internet. Guilford said Moreno, who has made millions as a marketing executive, should know how much a name is worth.
“Mr. Moreno has made a lot of money by selling quick five-second impressions on billboards,” Guilford said.
But Theodora said the value of lost “impressions” of the Anaheim name is entirely speculative and he called the alleged damages “just a handful of fog.”
Rather than losing millions because of lost national media exposure, Theodora said the city has benefited from Moreno’s ownership and the new name by receiving $5 million in revenue sharing since Moreno bought the team in 2003. Under seven years of Disney, the city received about $400,000.
The jury will begin deliberating today at 10 a.m. Nine votes are needed for a decision. If the jury rules in favor of Anaheim, the city will ask Polos to grant a permanent injunction that would forbid the Angels from using the Los Angeles name. Polos last year refused two such requests.
If the jury finds the Angels broke the lease and awards damages, Polos could deem a financial penalty appropriate but refuse to issue the order to drop “Los Angeles.” He also could award the city damages for last season and return the name to Anaheim Angels, thus nullifying any future damages the jury had awarded.