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Dima Corporation v. City of Albert Lea

April 15, 2013

DIMA CORPORATION, APPELLANT,
v.
CITY OF ALBERT LEA, RESPONDENT.



Freeborn County District Court File No. 24-CV-12-530

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Johnson, Chief Judge

This opinion will be unpublished and may not be cited except as provided by Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2012).

Reversed and remanded

Considered and decided by Johnson, Chief Judge; Stoneburner, Judge; and Toussaint, Judge.

Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION JOHNSON, Chief Judge

DiMa Corporation owns a portable sign that it rents to customers for purposes of advertising. The city of Albert Lea adopted an ordinance that, the city contends, prohibits DiMa's customers from using the sign. DiMa commenced this action to challenge the city's interpretation of its ordinance and to assert a First Amendment right to rent the sign to customers despite the ordinance. DiMa moved for a temporary injunction to prevent the city from enforcing the ordinance while the action is pending. The district court denied the motion. We conclude that the district court erred by determining that DiMa is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its claims and would not suffer irreparable harm if the ordinance were not enjoined and, thus, erred by denying the motion for a temporary injunction. Therefore, we reverse and remand for entry of a temporary injunction.

FACTS

DiMa owns a portable sign that is approximately 8 feet tall and 20 feet long. It is mounted on a frame with two axles and four wheels so that it can be towed. DiMa rents the sign to businesses in the city of Albert Lea and elsewhere.

In November 2006, the city issued a citation to one of DiMa's customers for using the sign in violation of a city ordinance. DiMa commenced a civil action against the city in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, alleging that the city's ordinance was contrary to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In January 2007, however, DiMa and the city entered into a settlement agreement in which the city agreed to, among other things, not enforce the ordinance against DiMa.

In October 2011, the city amended its sign ordinance by substantially rewriting it. The city's amended sign ordinance now permits portable signs only if they do not exceed 32 square feet in area and 8 feet in height. It is undisputed that DiMa's portable sign does not comply with the size limitations of the amended ordinance. But the amended ordinance also allows lawful nonconforming signs to continue to be used.

In December 2011, one of DiMa's customers, the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center, applied for a permit to place DiMa's portable sign in its parking lot. The city denied the permit application on the ground that DiMa's sign violates the size requirements of the amended ordinance. DiMa appealed that decision to the city's Board of Zoning Appeals, arguing that its sign is a lawful nonconforming sign. The board rejected DiMa's argument.

In March 2012, DiMa commenced this action in the Freeborn County District Court. DiMa pleaded two causes of action: it sought judicial review of the board's decision pursuant to state law and alleged a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2006) for a violation of its First Amendment rights. DiMa prayed for relief in the form of a permanent injunction prohibiting enforcement of the city's amended ordinance against the sign and for money damages. DiMa promptly moved for a temporary injunction while the case is pending. In May 2012, the district court denied DiMa's motion for a temporary injunction. DiMa appeals.

DECISION

DiMa argues that the district court erred by denying its motion for a temporary injunction. In considering such a motion, a district court should evaluate the following factors: (1) the relationship between the parties prior to the dispute; (2) the balance of harms between the two parties; (3) the likelihood that the moving party will succeed on the merits; (4) public policy concerns; and (5) the administrative burdens associated with enforcing the injunction. Dahlberg Bros., Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 272 Minn. 264, 274-75, 137 N.W.2d 314, 321-22 (1965). On appeal from the denial of a motion for a temporary injunction, this court applies an abuse-of-discretion standard of review. Carl Bolander & Sons Co. v. City of Minneapolis, 502 N.W.2d 203, 209 (Minn. 1993). A district court ...


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