The City Attorney has settled lawsuits against Total Outdoor, a national outdoor advertising company headquartered in Seattle, and several Seattle building owners and tenant businesses that alleged violations of the City’s on-premises sign code. The City alleged in four suits filed in 2014 that Total Outdoor and the owners of the properties where the signs were displayed earned monetary benefits by violating the sign code. The City Council previously enacted ordinances banning new billboards while continuing to allow businesses to attract customers to their establishments through on-premises signs.
Under City law, on-premises signs must be “used solely by a business establishment on the lot where the sign is located” to promote products and services available there. In the lawsuits, the City alleged that the subject signs were not being used solely by the business establishment on the lot. Instead the signs were being used by Total Outdoor to promote services and products provided by their clients. The settlement resolves this dispute not just for the four signs at issue in the City’s lawsuits, but also for all of the roughly 20 Total Outdoor-affiliated “on premises” signs in Seattle. Total Outdoor will pay the City $100,000 as part of the settlement in which the City has agreed to dismiss the lawsuits. The agreement also requires Total Outdoor take affirmative steps to ensure that the content of all of the associated on-premises signs are controlled by business establishments on the lots where the signs are located. Total Outdoor will pay the City an additional $20,000 for each sign it fails to conform to the agreement. The City and Total Outdoor worked cooperatively to settle the cases without requiring the court to resolve the issues in dispute.
As a result of this agreement, tenant businesses will be on clear notice that they are responsible for the signs permitted in their names.