No Attorney Fees for Billboard Companies and Other Lessons Learned

January 18, 2019

On December 20, 2018, the court of appeals issued a new eminent domain decision in The Lamar Company LLC v. WisDOT.

Substantively, the case is pretty narrow. The court of appeals upheld a lower court decision denying litigation expenses (attorney fees and costs) to a billboard company whose signs were taken for a WisDOT project. Attorneys who handle WisDOT condemnation matters are highly encouraged to read the decision.

There is one interesting procedural issue and a lesson to be learned that is relevant to all. The billboard company, Lamar, appealed on six different issues. However, the court only addressed one issue because Lamar failed to request relief relating to the other five issues. The court explained:

“Lamar does not contend that, as to the first five items listed above, but for the alleged errors committed at trial the result would have been different, nor does Lamar contend that it is entitled to a new trial as a result of the alleged errors committed at trial.  The only relief that Lamar requests is for litigation expenses, the sixth issue listed above. Because Lamar has not requested relief relating to the other issues discussed in its brief, we do not discuss those other issues.”

The lesson: on appeal, be specific when requesting relief. Don’t make the court of appeals guess what relief you are entitled to and why. 

I suspect this will be appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.