The legal battle over the hundreds of movie poster-style billboards put up in L.A. without permits the past five years apparently reached an end today, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review an appellate court decision that the city’s off-site sign ban can be used to prohibit the company’s signs.
The lawsuit challenging the city’s ban was originally filed in 2004 by a New York company called Metrolights, after the city cited a large number of the lighted street-level signs for violating the 2002 off-site sign ban. The lawsuit’s central claim—that the ban was unconstitutional because the city allowed similar signs on public property in bus shelters and other items of “street furniture”—got a favorable ruling from a U.S. District Court judge, but that ruling was overturned early this year by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
What will happen to the signs, now owned by another New York company called Fuel Outdoor? One might argue that the company “rolled the dice” in putting up signs without obtaining any required permits, hoping to win the right in court to keep them, but that roll has ultimately proved a loser. In the meantime, the company has reaped untold amounts of revenue from advertisers.
So wouldn’t a justifiable result be the removal of all the illegal signs and disgorgement of a significant amount of that revenue the company bet it could make and put in the bank?
Fuel Outdoor is also in the business of putting up supergraphic signs, although it isn’t known how many of those signs actually exist, or where they are located. Late last year, the company filed a so-called “copycat” lawsuit against the city, invoking the same grounds as the World Wide Rush case now awaiting a ruling from the 9th Circuit. Oral arguments in that case were heard just last week.Dennis Hathaway