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City and Tournament Due Back in Court for Hearing Over Legal Fees

Published on Monday, August 2, 2021 | 6:29 pm

The Tournament of Roses could be ordered to pay $400,660 to the city of Pasadena to cover legal fees incurred by the city defending itself against the nonprofit’s lawsuit stemming from disagreements that emerged after the 2021 Rose Bowl Game was moved to Arlington, Texas according to court documents obtained by Pasadena Now.

The Tournament filed suit in February against the city for alleged trademark infringement, unfair competition, false association, slander, and false advertising. The slander charges were later dropped.

Last month, the city scored a victory in federal court when a judge ruled in its favor on the disputed issues and put to rest an argument over who owns the annual Rose Bowl Game. 

Now, “Defendant City of Pasadena will and hereby does move this Court for an order compelling Plaintiff Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association’s (‘Plaintiff’) to reimburse the City and its taxpayers … for attorneys’ fees in the amount of at least $253,230.50 incurred in connection with the City’s successful defense,” according to the city’s motion for recovery of its costs in deciding the issue.

The city is also seeking at least $102,019 incurred in connection with the City’s special motion to strike and $49,410.50 incurred to date in connection with the motion for the award of attorneys’ fees.

The two sides are due back in court on Aug. 27.

The relationship between the two sides deteriorated after the association moved the Rose Bowl Game to Arlington, Texas. 

According to court documents, the Master License Agreement governing the relationship between the city and the Tournament, explicitly states the city is entitled to the legal fees.

“In the event that either party commences an action or proceeding to enforce its rights under this agreement or collect damages as a result of the breach of any of the provisions of this agreement, the prevailing party in such action or proceeding shall be entitled to recover all reasonable costs and expenses incurred in such action or proceeding, including reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, in addition to any other relief awarded by the court,” the agreement reads. 

Tensions between the two sides escalated when restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of the annual Rose Parade and barred spectators from attending the Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena. The game was moved, marking the first time since World War II that the Rose Bowl game was played outside of Pasadena.

Attorneys for the city said city officials discovered the game was moving and would retain the rights to the Rose Bowl Game name on a crawl during a televised UCLA Game, according to letters obtained by Pasadena Now

The Tournament later promised to gift the city $2 million over three years.

Tournament officials have repeatedly told Pasadena Now that there are no plans to move the game out of Pasadena, but instead the group is “reaffirming its rights.”

However, in a response to the original lawsuit, the city said the Tournament of Roses wanted a court of law to assure it that it could do just that.

“It is an attempt by the Tournament to ask the Court to allow it to redraft the Master License Agreement for future, hypothetical events that might never happen,” the city said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed. “The fact is, the current agreement between the parties does not allow the Rose Bowl Game to be played anywhere but in Pasadena for any reason, unless the City consents, like it did this year as a good-faith partner during extraordinary times.”

The College Football Playoffs (CFP) is looking to expand its current format to include more teams and a big sticking point is the Rose Bowl Game, according to CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated. If the Rose Bowl agrees to participate in the new format, the game could be moved from the traditional date and time. 

“Whether the Rose Bowl will ever get its traditional time slot again will be a hot topic of discussion,” wrote Dennis Dodd last month. 

According to the Master Lease Agreement between the city and the Tournament of Roses, the Tournament is obligated to hold the Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena on Jan. 1 unless a force majeure event occurs.

A force majeure, or superior force clause, relieves parties from performing their contractual obligations when certain circumstances beyond their control arise.

According to the Tournament, the CFP declared a force majeure, but the city’s attorneys said they have not been able to confirm that.

“This lawsuit should have never been filed in the first place,” said Mayor Victor Gordo after the city’s victory. “The City of Pasadena has been a tremendous partner to the Tournament, and it is appalling that the Tournament took such a significant step over nothing. We are pleased that the judge wasted little time in dismissing the claims made entirely.”

According to Kent R. Raygor, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, the law firm that defended the city in the matter, the Tournament of Roses so far has refused to abide by the clause in the MLA.

In court documents, Raygor said he met with Tournament lawyers on July 19 one week after the city won the lawsuit.

Raygor said during that meeting he explained that the city is entitled to recover attorney fees incurred during the court battle. 

“Plaintiff declined to discuss resolving the City’s request for attorneys’ fees and stated that it would oppose the City’s fee motion,” Raygor wrote. “The City has heard nothing further from Plaintiff.”

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