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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

7th Circuit Rules Street Vendor is not Entitled to Damages

Four years ago, we published a blog post about a case filed against the City of Chicago by a magazine owner challenging the City's ordinance that restricts the sale of magazines on streets adjacent to Wrigley Field. In that case, the owner of Left Field Media LLC (a company that sells Chicago Baseball, a four-edition magazine sold around Wrigley Field) sued the City of Chicago after a police officer issued the owner a ticket for selling the magazine. The officer requested that the owner move from a street adjacent to the ballpark per city ordinance. Left Hand sued, arguing the ordinance violated his freedom of speech. The Seventh Circuit found that the ordinance was “content-neutral,” meaning it only regulated vendors (peddlers), not the content of what was being sold—in this case, a magazine. The Court upheld the ordinance, finding that the City was entitled to limit sales on the streets adjacent to Wrigley Field because it helped the City control pedestrian spill-over from sidewalks because the streets adjacent to the field were narrow.  

The case was remanded to the district court to determine whether the City's ordinance requiring a peddles license was invalid because it exempted newspapers. While the case was still pending, the City amended its ordinance to remove the distinction between newspapers and magazines. The City argued the case was moot but Left Hand claimed it was entitled to damages it incurred between the time it filed the lawsuit and the City's amendment to its peddler licensing ordinance. Its damages claim made its way back to the Seventh Circuit, which recently denied Left Hand's request for damages and attorneys fees. 

First, the Court dismissed claims of emotional distress because the owner was not a litigant in the case. Since Left Field is a limited liability company, its owner is not personally on the hook for the company's liability, so would not be entitled to damages.

Second, Left Field failed to specify the costs it allegedly incurred to learn about the Chicago peddlers' licensing system. It also didn't apply for a license. Instead, its claims focus on the owner’s time but Left Field failed to show specific extra costs incurred by the company beyond normal payroll expenses.

Finally, the Court rejected Left Field's request for reimbursement of its legal fees because it failed to specify which legal expenses were dedicated to complying with the ordinance rather than trying to have it declared unconstitutional. 

You can read the opinion HERE

Post Authored by Mike Halpin & Julie Tappendorf


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