New Lawsuit Seeks Millions From Sign Company, Property Owners

Van Wagner supergraphic sign on Santa Monica Blvd. (Photo from April, 2009)

Continuing its aggressive pursuit of sign law violators, the L.A. City Attorney’s office has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Van Wagner Communications and 19 property owners who allegedly allowed the company to put up illegal supergraphic signs.

The suit filed today in Los Angeles County Superior Court seeks penalties of up to $2,500 a day and disgorgement of gross revenues from signs put up by New York-based Van Wagner on buildings in West L.A., Hollywood,  the San Fernando Valley, and downtown.   Those penalties could run into the millions.

Van Wagner filed a “copycat” lawsuit against the city in 2008, after a federal judge ruled in the better-known World Wide Rush case that the city’s ban on off-site and supergraphic signs was unconstitutional.  The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision last year.

In an attempt to stop a flood of new supergraphic signs in the wake of the 2008 ruling, the city adopted a moratorium on any new off-site signs in December, 2008, and a permanent ban on such signs in August, 2009.  The lawsuit filed today alleges that Van Wagner and the property owners deliberately violated both of those measures by putting up new signs.

In May of last year, Van Wagner publicly announced that it would remove more than 60 supergraphic signs in the city.  It called this an ““unprecedented display of corporate social responsibility” and the result of the company’s “ongoing effort  to work with Los Angeles City officials on a permanent solution to the City’s ongoing struggles in regulating the outdoor advertising industry.”

The city attorney has also filed similar civil suits against World Wide Rush and CBS Outdoor.  The latter company, a division of CBS Corporation, has agreed to settle the lawsuit for $4 million.

Dennis Hathaway

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