Doral

Judge rules in favor of Doral in lawsuit with billboard company

Doral Mayor Luigi Boria, left, City Attorney Daniel Espino and Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz hold a news conference Thursday afternoon after a judge ruled ruled in favor of the city, ending a controversial lawsuit between the city and a billboard company.
Doral Mayor Luigi Boria, left, City Attorney Daniel Espino and Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz hold a news conference Thursday afternoon after a judge ruled ruled in favor of the city, ending a controversial lawsuit between the city and a billboard company. rkoltun@elnuevoherald.com

A Miami-Dade County judge ruled in favor of Doral earlier this week, ending a controversial lawsuit between the city and a billboard company.

The legal dispute between the city and SDE Media began in June 2015, when the company sued the city and council members after they rejected a request to put a billboard on the northwest corner of the Palmetto Expressway and Northwest 36th Street, which has some of the heaviest traffic in Doral.

On Monday, Judge William Thomas ruled that the city did nothing wrong in the billboard lawsuit, calling the city’s decision to deny the SDE Media’s billboard request “commercially reasonable and not arbitrary.”

SDE Media accused several council members of conspiring to vote against the request, and wanted to look for evidence in texts, emails and voicemails on the phones. That speculation led to a second lawsuit which is still pending; that case also being handled by Judge Thomas.

The city is seeking to recover more than $250,000 in attorney’s fees spent on the billboard case, according to Doral City Attorney Dan Espino, who referred to the case as “baseless, contentious” and “predatory litigation.”

“This represents a significant victory against a well-funded special interest that vilified the administration and this council, and was, and continues to be, willing to abuse the legislative, legal and public records process for his own selfish gain,” Espino said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Joseph DeMaria, the attorney representing SDE Media, told the Miami Herald the case “is far from being over” and that “it will be reviewed by the appellate court.”

“We respect Judge Thomas, but he got it wrong,” DeMaria said, stressing that the court relied on “incompetent evidence.”

“This will be reviewed by the appellate court regardless of what the judge ruled,” he said. “So yes, that was only the first quarter, we’re not even at halftime yet. There’s a long way to go.”

Monique O. Madan: 305-376-2108, @MoniqueOMadan

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