Miami Market / Recent Law Suit

Frank, I was wondering if you could comment on the following two articles regarding the recently won law suit against the City of Miami, i.e. South Florida Fund v City of Miami. Apparently the settlement that was done by the city 5 years ago involving the big three, Clear Channel, CBS and Carter has been busted wide open due to this case, allowing Outlook Media to put up boards along the highway as well. They have now put up two boards in the last 6 months off of the 826 in prime locations. Will this open up the field for other companies to be able to put up billboards along Miami’s Highway? The links are as follows:

Thank you

The outdoor industry has a rich tradition of using the court system to get what it wants. It uses free speech arguments to get new signs up and then uses personal property rights to keep them up even when they are supposed to come down. There is nothing new about this. Los Angeles has tried to control outdoor for decades but failed continuously when challenged in court. The current city attorney thinks he can control the industry, but nobody knows. There are two trends, though, that you have to be aware of: 1) the “freedom os speech” arguments have not been holding up in court well (probably due to over-use, just like “slip and fall” lawsuits with insurance companies) and 2) the cities have been “raising the ante” on those who test the waters (case in point, the LA city attorney who threw the guy in jail on $1 million bond for putting up a Disney wallscape on his building).

It takes deep pockets to play the court system, so only CBS, Lamar, Clear Channel and other large companies have been effective in using the courts to decide the most subjective points of law. Sometimes their efforts open up the playing field for many (there was a suit in DFW years ago in a market that struck down a city’s sign ordinance and allowed other companies (myself included) to jump in and obtain permits).

So, yes, such actions might open up the way for other outdoor companies to use the same arguments. I’d follow them closely. But don’t do anything illegal, or file a suit, unless you can afford the bill.