Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Paramount Media Group, Inc. v. Village of Bellwood

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

February 14, 2017

PARAMOUNT MEDIA GROUP, INC., an Illinois corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
VILLAGE OF BELLWOOD, an Illinois municipal corporation, and IMAGE MEDIA ADVERTISING, INC., an Illinois corporation, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JORGE L. ALONSO United States District Judge.

         Before the Court are four motions. For the reasons explained below, the motions of defendants Image Media Advertising, Inc. (“Image Media”) and the Village of Bellwood (“Bellwood”) for summary judgment [217, 220] are granted as to Counts I through V of the First Amended Complaint, and the Court relinquishes supplemental jurisdiction over Counts VI and VII; the motion of plaintiff Paramount Media Group, Inc. (“Paramount”) to strike new evidence presented in Image Media's reply [242] is denied; and the motion of Paramount to strike Bellwood's reply to Paramount's response to Bellwood's statement of facts [244] is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Paramount is a company that buys and leases property, builds billboards on the property, and sells advertising on those billboards. (ECF No. 226, Pl.'s Resp. Image Media's LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 2.) Image Media is one of its competitors. (Id. ¶ 1.) Bellwood is an Illinois municipal corporation located in Cook County. (Id. ¶ 3.) This action arises out of Bellwood's billboard regulations and its lease of property to Image Media. Defendants have filed separate motions for summary judgment.

         MATERIAL FACTS[1]

         The Sodhi Lease Agreement

         In February 2005, Paramount entered into a Lease Agreement (the “Sodhi Lease Agreement”) with Khushpal and Harmeet Sodhi, the owners of the real property located at 1133-1135 Bellwood Avenue in Bellwood (the “Sodhi Property”). The Sodhi Lease Agreement provides:

The undersigned [(the Sodhis, as trust beneficiaries)], as LESSOR, hereby leases and grants exclusively to LESSEE [(Paramount)], for the purpose of erecting and maintaining one new 20x60 double faced advertising sign and structure on the property shown on the diagram and description on the reverse side of this agreement or on the attached Exhibit “A”, at the address of 1133-35 Bellwood Ave, City of Bellwood, State of Illinois, Cook County, Proviso Township on LESSOR's property located adjacent to Highway I-290 commencing on the date the structure is erected, and unless terminated earlier as provided, shall end Fifty (50) years from the commencement date.

(ECF No. 219-1, Sodhi Lease Agreement, at 1.)

         Because the Sodhi Property is in a business area located next to Interstate Highway 290, state regulations required Paramount to obtain a sign permit from the Illinois Department of Transportation (“IDOT”) before building a billboard there. See Ill. Admin. Code tit. 92, § 522.30. Paramount applied for such a permit for the Sodhi Property, and IDOT issued one on February 7, 2007. Paramount did not build a sign prior to the permit's expiration in 2010, so Paramount received a new IDOT permit for the Sodhi Property in July 2011, which was valid until July 21, 2014. Paramount did not build a sign on the Sodhi Property during that time frame, nor did it apply at any time for a sign permit from Bellwood, which required all owners or operators of off-site advertising signs[2] to apply for and obtain a permit.

         Bellwood's Sign Ordinance and Amendment

         On February 25, 2009, Bellwood enacted Ordinance 9-4, which amended the Bellwood Zoning Code to establish regulations for on- and off-premises signs. (ECF No. 222-1, 2009 Ordinance.) With one exception that is inapplicable here, the sign ordinance provides in pertinent part that subsequent to its effective date, “no new off-site advertising sign permit will be issued by the village.” Bellwood, Ill. Code § 156.207(E) (original version at § 156.107(E)). On March 21, 2012, Bellwood enacted Ordinance 12-9, which amended § 156.207 to add the following exception to the ban on off-site signs: “An off-site advertising sign permit proposed to be located on village owned or controlled property may be exempted from the terms of this chapter subject to any condition set by the Mayor and Board of Trustees.” (ECF No. 219-6, 2012 Ordinance; Bellwood, Ill. Code § 156.207(F).)

         The Bellwood Property

         Bellwood owns a parcel of real property at 1156 Bellwood Avenue (the “Bellwood Property”), which is across the street from the Sodhi Property.[3] On March 21, 2012, Paramount sent Bellwood a letter offering $1, 140, 000 to lease the Bellwood Property for the purpose of installing a billboard, to be paid in annual installments of $24, 000 in years one through ten, $26, 000 in years eleven through twenty, $29, 000 in years twenty-one through thirty, and $35, 000 in years thirty-one through forty. (ECF No. 219-10, Letter from Ronald J. Broida to Michael Castaldo, Jr.) Image Media offered Bellwood $800, 000 to lease the same property and install a billboard.[4] Bellwood accepted Image Media's offer, and on October 17, 2012, those parties entered into an Agreement (the “1156 Agreement”), which states that Bellwood will use its “best efforts” to grant Image Media “permitting” for an outdoor advertising structure on the property and that Bellwood would provide Image Media with a leasehold interest or easement in the property. (ECF No. 219-11, Agreement, at 1.) The 1156 Agreement further provides that Image Media shall pay Bellwood $200, 000 upon execution of the agreement; $200, 000 within five days after Bellwood issued a “conditional use permit, any required variances and the local sign permit” for billboard construction; and $400, 000 upon the earlier of IDOT's issuance of a sign permit or August 31, 2014. (Id.) It also contains the following provisions:

Image Media shall indemnify and hold harmless [Bellwood] from and against any and all claims and liabilities that may be asserted against [Bellwood] by Paramount Outdoor as a result of [Bellwood's] entering into this Agreement or the transaction contemplated thereby, except any claims or liabilities arising due to [Bellwood's] failure to comply with any applicable statutes, laws or ordinances. . . .
Unless the transactions contemplated hereby are sooner completed or this Agreement is sooner terminated, the term of this Agreement shall expire on August 31, 2014. During the term of this Agreement, [Bellwood] shall not issue a permit for the construction, operation or maintenance of an outdoor advertising sign within 500 feet of the Subject Property to any person, partnership, company, corporation or other entity other than Image Media.

(Id. at 3, 4.) On November 1, 2013, Bellwood published in a newspaper of general circulation its intent to enter into a long-term lease with Image Media, pursuant to 65 ILCS 5/11-76-2. (ECF No. 219-16.) Bellwood and Image Media have since agreed to amend the 1156 Agreement to provide that Image Media will pay $2.2 million over a period of forty years, but they have not yet executed an amended agreement.

         Paramount's Lawsuits and the Sodhis' Termination of the Sodhi Lease Agreement

         On May 30, 2013, Paramount filed its original complaint in the instant action, alleging six claims: violation of its First Amendment rights (Count I); violation of its Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection (Counts II and III); attempt to monopolize, monopolization, and conspiracy to monopolize the billboard market in Bellwood, in violation of § 2 of the Sherman Act (Count IV); conspiracy in restraint of trade, in violation of § 1 of the Sherman Act (Count V); and a claim for a declaratory judgment that Bellwood did not have the authority under Illinois law to enter into the 1156 Agreement with Image Media (Count VI). Paramount seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys' fees and costs.

         Subsequently, Image Media's principal, Michael Scheid, contacted Khushpal Sodhi and asked him about the Sodhi Lease Agreement, which is mentioned in Paramount's complaint. In October 2013, counsel for the Sodhis sent Paramount a letter stating that the Sodhis were “cancel[ing]” the Sodhi Lease Agreement because 1) Paramount had never given any consideration for it; 2) Paramount had not used good-faith efforts to apply for the requisite permits in a timely manner; 3) Paramount had “sought to defraud” the Sodhis by “seeking to lease and negotiating with other property owners and sites in close proximity to the subject site in an effort to leverage either a better deal or a better sign location”; and 4) the lease agreement has no definite term. (ECF Nos. 226-1, Ex. 9, and 219-13, Letter from Dennis Bordyn to David Quas.)[5] On October 23, 2013, the Sodhis and Image Media entered into a Lease Option Agreement for the Sodhi Property, under which the Sodhis granted Image Media “the option to lease a portion of” the property for the purpose of constructing a billboard there. (ECF No. 219-14.) Image Media paid the Sodhis $30, 000 upon entering into the Lease Option Agreement. The Sodhis and Image Media also entered into an Indemnification and Hold Harmless Agreement, pursuant to which Image Media agreed to indemnify and defend the Sodhis in all actions arising from the Lease Option Agreement.

         On November 13, 2013, Paramount filed a complaint against the Sodhis in the DuPage County Circuit Court (the “DuPage Action”), seeking a declaratory judgment that the Sodhi Lease Agreement is valid and enforceable. (ECF No. 226-4 at 1-5.) Paramount later amended its complaint to include IDOT as a defendant and seek a declaratory judgment that Paramount's IDOT permit is valid. (ECF No. 226-4 at 6-13.) The DuPage Action is still pending.

         On January 23, 2014, counsel for the Sodhis sent a letter to IDOT citing “lease cancelation” and requesting that IDOT “void” the sign permit that IDOT had issued to Paramount in 2011 for a sign on the Sodhi Property. (ECF No. 226-3, Letter from Dennis Bordyn to Tim Hoesli.)

         On January 29, 2014, Paramount filed a First Amended Complaint in this action (the current complaint), which added Count VII, a claim against Image Media for tortious interference with the Sodhi Lease Agreement. (ECF No. 81.)

         On March 5, 2014, IDOT sent Paramount a “Notice of Invalid Permit, ” which stated that IDOT had received “notification of the cancelation of the lease required, ” so Paramount's permit was “now void.” (ECF No. 219-4, Letter from Salmon Danmole to Paramount (citing Ill. Admin. Code tit. 92, § 522.50(b)(5) (“If the lease, contract to purchase or other consent to erect and maintain a sign is terminated prior to the erection of the sign, the permit is void.”)).)

         Paramount's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.