Court of Appeals Decision: The Lamar Company, LLC v. DOT (Litigation Expenses for Condemnation)

In The Lamar Company, LLC v. DOT (2017AP1001), the Court of Appeals District IV held that Lamar was not entitled to litigation expenses under Wisconsin’s eminent domain statutes because the outdoor advertising statutes do not include the award of litigation costs.

Wisconsin’s outdoor advertising statutes in Wis. Stat. § 84.30 provide a procedure for determining just compensation when the Department of Transportation (DOT) removes a sign. In previous cases, the Supreme Court has held § 84.30 is the exclusive remedy for outdoor advertising just compensation disputes like Lamar’s. § 84.30 does not provide for litigation expenses.

However, § 84.30 directs DOT and sign owners to follow an alternate procedure in § 32.05 if the parties cannot agree on just compensation. § 32.05 allows for litigation expenses. DOT initiated an action under § 32.05 in this case.

Lamar argued that it should have been allowed litigation expenses because it was subject to following the § 32.05 procedures. However, relying on the Supreme Court decision in Vivid, Inc. v. Fiedler (1998), the appeals court held that litigation expenses were not due because § 84.30 is the exclusive remedy for outdoor advertising cases. While the appeals court acknowledged Lamar’s argument that this reading of the statute creates an inequity, the court said such an issue should be addressed by the legislature or Supreme Court.