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COMMUNITY SPORTS v. DENVER RINGSBY ROCKETS (04/16/68)

decided: April 16, 1968.

COMMUNITY SPORTS, INC.
v.
DENVER RINGSBY ROCKETS, INC., APPELLANT



Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Jan. T., 1968, No. 2994, in case of Community Sports, Inc. v. Denver Ringsby Rockets, Inc., Denver A. B. A. Basketball, Inc., and James Trindle, an individual, collectively trading as a partnership and doing business as Denver Rockets, and Larry Jones.

COUNSEL

David M. Kaufman, with him Gerald S. Lesher, and Baskin, Boreman, Sachs & Craig, for appellant.

Milton W. Lamproplos, with him Edward J. Greene, C. Kent May, and Eckert, Seamans & Cherin, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.

Author: Roberts

[ 429 Pa. Page 567]

This is an appeal from the grant of a preliminary injunction restraining defendant-appellant, Denver Rockets professional basketball team, from employing or using defendant, Larry Jones, as a professional basketball player during the 1967-1968 basketball season, and further restraining defendant Jones from playing professional basketball during said season for anyone other than plaintiff-appellee.

On September 28, 1966 Jones and one Wende, then general manager and president of the Wilkes-Barre Barons professional basketball team of the Eastern Professional Basketball League, entered into a written contract whereby Jones agreed to play basketball for the 1966-67 season for the Wilkes-Barre Barons exclusively.*fn1 The contract contained an option clause giving

[ 429 Pa. Page 568]

    the club the rights to Jones' services for an additional year (the 1967-68 season) provided said option was exercised by October 31, 1967. It is undisputed that this option was timely exercised. Nevertheless, on August 4, 1967, Jones signed a contract to play basketball during the 1967-68 season with the newly formed Denver Rockets of the American Basketball Association. Accordingly, Community Sports, Inc., now owners of the Wilkes-Barre franchise, commenced this action in equity.

In response to the chancellor's ex parte grant of a preliminary injunction, appellant filed a motion to strike service*fn2 and dismiss this injunction. In support of the motion to dismiss, appellant pleaded the existence of, and appended a copy of, a second agreement between Jones and Wende, also dated September 28, 1966 and referring to the basic contract signed that day, in which Wende specifically gave Jones the right to join any team in another league if Jones thought that by so doing he would have the opportunity to "better" himself. Appellant maintains that this document is part of the Jones-Wilkes-Barre Barons contract, and as such gives Jones an absolute right to "jump leagues" at any time during the duration of the agreement.*fn3 The court below, however, for several

[ 429 Pa. Page 569]

    reasons refused to give effect to this agreement, in essence a release, and thus continued the preliminary injunction. Hence, this appeal.

We start with the proposition, now firmly established, that "on an appeal from a decree which refuses, grants or continues a preliminary injunction, we will look only to see if there were any apparently reasonable grounds for the action of the court below, and we will not further consider the merits of the case or pass upon the reasons for or against such action, unless it is plain that no such grounds existed or that the rules of law relied on are palpably wrong or clearly inapplicable: . . ." Lindenfelser v. Lindenfelser, 385 Pa. 342, 343-44, 123 A.2d 626, 627 (1956); United Natural Gas Co. v. Wagner, 417 Pa. 456, 208 A.2d 843 (1965); Alabama Binder & Chemical Corp. v. Pennsylvania Industrial Chemical Corp., 410 Pa. 214, 189 A.2d 180 (1963). Nevertheless, we believe that there were no grounds whatsoever upon which the chancellor could have ...


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